The Planner as a Leader

With New Year resolutions in mind, the power of a written plan to influence outcomes cannot be underestimated. This works at the personal level and the business level. The only requirement is the people involved in making the plans happen need to be committed to the planned outcome.

Barbara Anderson, from Shire Coaching a long term friend and colleague who specialises in executive, business & personal coaching quoted the following survey in her New Year e-zine.

HARVARD STUDY – Evidence that writing down your goals works

Students in the 1979 Harvard MBA program were asked: ‘Have you set and written down goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?’
–   Only 3% had written goals.
–   13% had goals but hadn’t written them
–   84% had no specific goals

10 years later the same students were interviewed. The 13% of the class who had set goals were earning twice as much on average as the 84% who didn’t have goals.

The 3% who had written goals – were earning 10 x as much on average as the other 97%, and also reported better health, better relationships, and overall happiness and success.

The message is clear, from New Year resolutions, to life goals, to project goals having a written plan makes a huge difference. But achieving the required effect is not so simple. The minority of MBA students who had taken the trouble to write down their goals, and their plans to achieve them, were most likely committed to the plan. The challenge for project goals written into a project plan is developing the same level of commitment.

I have posted numerous blogs discussing ways to make the project plan and in particular the schedule into an effective document for communicating the agreed goals and plans, but on its own a well crafted document is still of little use (click on the ‘Scheduling’ category to see the posts). Creating buy-in and commitment to the project plan is a leadership role and requires the project planner to act as an effective leader, supporting their project manager.

Leadership is a learned skill, based on personal integrity. Some of the key learnable skills of a leader that directly relate to the roles of the project planner as a leader include:

  • Interpreting situations and information that affect the project, including:
       –   Seeking information from multiple sources
       –   Knowing how the project fits into the organisations overall strategy
       –   Analysing how resources and team members work together and understanding their capabilities
       –   Knowing your own capabilities and motivations
  • Shaping a strategy for the work (the traditional planning function), including:
       –   Involving the right people at the right time
       –   Standing up for what is important
       –   Keeping the plans relevant by appropriate updating and statusing
       –   Communicating the plan effectively and showing how it fits into an overall organisational strategy
       –   Remaining positive
  • Helping mobilise resources to work the plan, including:
       –   Communicating clearly the results expected from others
       –   Leading people towards the planned ways of working
       –   Demonstrating caring and confidence in the capabilities of team members and resources.
       –   Letting people know how they are progressing towards achieving the plan
  • Inspiring others to achieve results:
       –   Recognising the contribution of others
       –   Helping them to feel and act as leaders in their section of the project
       –   Stimulating the thinking of others
       –   Contributing to the building of the group’s commitment and enthusiasm for the project’s objectives.

Obviously the project planner cannot accomplish all of this alone; support is needed from project management. Helping the project manager help the planner to be successful requires a different skill set, ‘advising upwards’ but that is the subject of another paper (see Managing Upwards from our publishd papers).

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One response to “The Planner as a Leader

  1. Pat,
    Great items in the Harvard article. I’m going to build an IMP/IMS briefing from this.
    Amazing how many program “go through the motions” of planning, then just run back to building products, never asking if they are following the plan.
    This of course means they can’t really tell of they are headed in the planned direction, or thay have any feedback processes, or even if they are making progress at all.
    No wonder the numbers are high on project failure rates. No matter the bad statistics of Standish, here in defense the numbers are bad as well.

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