08.08 20120

In Search of Merlin

In the legend of King Arthur, Camelot is a symbol of ideal governance. Behind great leaders, such as King Arthur, usually there is a person who helps them along the way with their difficulties and troubles.  Merlin, a magician and prophet, was such a person for Arthur.  Executives often wish that they had the assistance of a wizard like Merlin, capable of magically transforming their organizations into a Camelot, a place of high ideals, excitement, purpose and culture; however, attempting to establish Camelot and locating a modern-day Merlin are very difficult tasks.

What does Camelot look like for a modern organization?  In his book The Project Success Method, Clint Padgett offers some characteristics of successful companies.  A successful company is an organization that is more agile than its competition.  The organization can develop and launch new products, technologies, systems and strategic programs more quickly than its competitors.  The organization can open new facilities, complete mergers and acquisitions, develop marketing plans, and stage special events faster than the competition.

According to Padgett, in order to establish an organization with such characteristics, companies need to develop the knowledge, skills, tools, and systems that are required to manage projects successfully.  The organization must be sharply focused on quality, time and cost.  The ability to execute projects more effectively, faster, and at a lower cost will allow the organization to be more responsive to customers and give an organization a distinct competitive advantage in a fast-moving global economy.

Finding a person with great skill and cleverness running project organizations can be challenging.  All organizations want a person to offer wisdom… and a little magic does not hurt… when times get tough.  How do we know the right candidate to choose?  The right choice can mean we have a place where people come together to celebrate prosperity of wisdom, wealth and happiness, and the wrong choice can lead to tragic consequences for the organization.  When it is time to hire the person to run a very important project for our organization, we need to separate reality from myth.

Myth 1:

My candidate has taken a project management software course and has learned all that is necessary to serve as a project manager.  Superficial knowledge of project management software does not provide in-depth knowledge of project management processes.  As Padgett states in his book, a fine musical instrument does not make a great musician, but rather, it enhances the skills.

Myth 2:

My candidate has a project management degree and/or certification that means that the candidate has all the skills necessary to manage projects in my organization.  Applied knowledge is different than theoretical knowledge.  Padgett points out that degrees and certifications are great achievements, but do not insure that a candidate will properly apply the techniques that have been taught.

Myth 3:

My candidate has 10 years experience managing projects and will be capable of managing mission critical projects for my organization.  Padgett asserts that project managers tend to overvalue past project experience.  As Vince Lombardi expressed, experience is only a great teacher if you have been learning the right lessons.

Myth 4:

My candidate has technical expertise and will be a great lead for my technical project.  Project management is 90% communication.  The project manager must be the bridge between the organization’s strategic objectives and the tactical implementation of the technical team.  Highly technical project managers may become overly involved in technical wars about the appropriate technology to implement; they must be able to still see the forest in spite of all the trees.

The ideal candidate is a good mixture of all of these characteristics.  Ideally, the person has some background that allows them to speak the technical language of the team, while not actually doing the technical work on the project.  Ideally, the person has experience managing projects of a similar size and complexity with a track record of success on these projects.  Ideally, the candidate has formal project management training in the form of a certification and/or degree in project management that gives them a background in best practices and the tools and techniques to use for project success.  Ideally, the candidate has some experience with a project management software tool that will allow them to quickly come up to speed in communicating with the team.  A good mix of all of these characteristics helps to create good project communication and establish processes that can create magic in your organization.

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