I usually lead software implementation projects. They have the classic waterfall stages (Initiate, Plan, Execute, Close) with gate decisions that close one stage and open the next.
This morning I was thinking about a recent project. I was hired to help two teams come together to complete a series of milestones.
While it’s definitely a project, and I can “see” the stages, there is no need for rigid gating. Classic project management is not necessary and if I was strict about it, the project would probably fail.
What is completely essential, however, is the leadership component.
All teams need that person who sits at the center of the project and coordinates, communicates, raises risks, and links people to solve problems. That go-to person who understands the elements and how they fit together…the one who keeps everyone moving forward to achieve the goal.
Here’s an analogy: if the project is a wheel, the Project Manager is the hub and the team members are the spokes.
Each spoke has a particular function, a singular touchpoint to the wheel – the project itself. But the hub touches all the spokes and connects the spokes to each other. The PM is the hub that keeps everything working together, and this function is what allows the wheel to turn.
Our goal is to bring the team successfully from point A to point B. Whether we are in a project that uses Waterfall, Scrum, Lean, Hybrid, or none of the above – it’s our commitment to keeping the wheel spinning that powers its success.
If you’re in a situation that doesn’t fit “classic” project management, know that it’s okay. Keep your focus on providing that connection for the team. Add the elements that help reach milestones. Be strict or set aside formality when it makes sense.
If you do that, your project will run more smoothly. Your leadership allows the team to focus on their own roles – they can get the actual work done on the project, knowing you’re keeping that wheel turning.