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What Project Managers Need to Know

Building--and applying--skills in leadership, communication and organizational change mark the path to success.

Supply chain professionals have no shortage of projects looming at any given time, from consolidating and moving warehouses to implementing new systems, and automating invoicing or purchasing processes to integrating technologies like RFID, GPS and tablet computing into supply chain processes. And each project needs a great project manager.

Unfortunately, says project leadership and organization transformation expert Hal Macomber of Lean Project Consulting, Inc., "Project management routinely fails to produce desired business results. Projects are over budget, late and fail to satisfy the customer and the project participants."

Here, Macomber offers several ways to improve supply chain project management skills:

  • Explore a variety of perspectives. Ask what others see, and you'll see more together.
  • Stay in close touch with your customer. Concerns evolve over the life of a project, so this will allow you to respond changes faster.
  • Understand and consider each team member as an individual. Then, make it your aim to bring those individual skills and interests into a coherent team.
  • Keep your eye on the overall project promises. Don't lose sight of what your team is doing and why you are doing it. Remind everyone of the promises you've made and how well you are doing fulfilling them.
  • Build relationships. Project teams begin as strangers. Great work takes people who like and care for each other. Start projects by building relationships among team members.
  • Tightly couple learning with action. Incorporate frequent learning loops throughout the project's life. Your team will appreciate it. Your customer will benefit from it.
  • Coordinate meticulously. A project is an evolving network of commitment. Avoid project drift by paying attention to critical conversations. Be sure that people make clear requests, make promises with completion dates and share opinions that help achieve project goals.
  • Collaborate. Always make your plans with the people who will execute them. Don't wait to ask them for help when the project goes wrong. Make collaboration your business-as-usual.
  • Listen generously. People speak in the moment, usually with good intentions. Take the time to listen. Ask questions. Seek opinions.
  • Embrace uncertainty. You can't anticipate everything that will happen. Expect to encounter things that change what your team must deliver and how you will do it. Setbacks are normal.

Companies need outstanding project managers. Include these softer skills in your leadership toolbox and increase your team's effectiveness.


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