Project Management vs Project Leadership

It’s different. Leaders develop people, think strategically and take responsibility. Managers manage. Here are three ways the differences flesh out in my NTCUE project, establishing a Project Management Office (PMO).

Developing People
I’m taking the opportunity to turn enhancement inbox suggestions into coaching moments. The PMO’s project selection process seeks to come alongside idea submitters to help them develop their idea and connect it to DuPont Community Credit Union’s strategy and annual goals. This coaching empowers employees and gives them a voice in improving their workplace. It develops buy-in to the organizational strategy by connecting their project to the big picture. Further, coaching promotes critical and creative thinking as we discuss the conditions of success for their project and other ways to accomplish their idea’s goal. No one likes to see their project idea rejected, however, limited resources are a reality. A project manager would write a pass/fail email. A project leader has the relationship to offer a genuine, insightful explanation on the specifics of the go/no-go decision.

Strategic Thinking
Portfolio management is growing in organizations, often within PMOs. We are all required to think strategically in order to implement strategic projects. A project manager understands the deliverables of his or her project; a project leader strives to understand where those deliverables came from and how they affect business goals. On my projects, I think strategically to align a project’s results with DuPont’s business goals. I’m beginning to use an adapted version of the Logical Framework Approach from Terry Schmidt’s book Strategic Project Management Made Simple. It provides a guiding tool for teams to align the goals of the project to the goals of the credit union.

Taking Responsibility
In a recent project, my team was struggling to define how we wanted a new registration process to work. We continued to get side-tracked investigating specific details; when we attempted to view the big picture, we feared we were missing steps and kept getting the steps we did know out of order. We needed a tool that we did not possess to get it right. A manager would have called it good enough, however, since as a leader I was responsible for the best outcome (and for my team’s development) I asked another manager for advice. She suggested facilitating a process mapping exercise. We brought her into the next few team meetings to lead the exercise and publicly declared that while she was facilitating the group through the exercise she would be teaching me how to be the future facilitator. In the end, not only did we have confidence in our new process, but we also learned a new tool.

Projects are ripe with leading opportunities. Project managers get projects done. Project leaders get projects done while empowering the people around them, thinking strategically and connecting others to the strategy and taking responsibility for results and their team. This is what our PMO is all about!

Josh Gelser