Project Leadership Requires Sharing Responsibility

In August 2009, I was given the opportunity to present a project management paper with Curt Finch CEO of Journyx on “How to Successfully Execute Projects Every Time” at the 3rd Annual Project Management Symposium at UT Dallas.

There were many excellent papers given at the symposium. One I found particularly thoughtful and filled with excellent ideas was Wendy Overturf’s paper titled, “The Fellowship of Teams: The Power of Individual and Shared Responsibilities on Projects”. Wendy is a Project Management Professional (PMP) and works for Texas Instruments Incorporated.

Here are a few key points Wendy made in her presentation:

  • “The project manager must be willing to share the leadership role with team members through a balance of individual and shared responsibilities.”
  • Each team member should participate in the chartering process. Each should formally commit to doing their best to achieve the agreed upon project results —even when things do not go as planned (based on content from: Project Leadership by Timothy J. Kloppenborg, Arthur Shriberg and Jayashree Venkatraman, in Management Concepts, 2003).
  • The needs of team members follow a track similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in which the lower-level needs such as Job Availability and Working Conditions must be fulfilled before higher-level needs like Recognition and Reaching One’s Full Potential can be addressed.
  • “Each individual on the project team is a major stakeholder of the project.”
  • “Traditional concepts and techniques such as the Project Charter, Needs Hierarchy, Bill of Rights, Stakeholder Analysis, and the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RASCI) can assist project managers with recognizing and tapping into the full potential of project teams…”

I encourage you to read Wendy’s entire paper which has been published by PM World Today – September 2009 (Vol XI, Issue XI). If you have thoughts about or experience in sharing leadership on a project, I invite your comments to share with the PM community.

Project Management Buzz words and Clichés

Clichés are cheating. If one summarizes an idea or a command in cute, “actionable” bits repeatedly, then one is failing to really communicate and is insulting one’s listeners. It may be hard to believe but the hackneyed, over-used buzzwords and clichés that are some manager’s mantras were not always subjects of distain and parody. In the beginning those terms had meaning. However through over-use and misuse, they became clichés.

Hearing the old and worn out, “Work smarter not harder” the other day in a motivational meeting, got me to thinking about words and phrases that have been driven to the point that they no longer have any meaning and actually make me angry. Using the phrase above, I ask myself, “What does the speaker believe I have been doing during my 12 hour days trying to meet an unrealistic schedule?” “Is he or she saying I am stupid?” “Do they have a clue what is required to solve this problem?”

All of that angst led me to create this list of project management buzzwords and clichés that set my teeth on edge. I offer these in the hope that you will remove them from your vocabulary as a regular diet.

  • Think out of the box
  • Synergy
  • Paradigm shift
  • Anything with “ize” at the end – productize, monetize, incentivize
  • Jumping the shark
  • Run it up the flagpole and see if someone salutes
  • Give 110%
  • Best of Breed
  • Blue Sky Thinking
  • State of the Art
  • Take ownership
  • The Big Picture
  • On the same page (or out of the same hymnal)
  • Mission Critical
  • Best (biggest) bang for the buck
  • Low hanging fruit
  • Bring me solutions, not problems
  • Walk the talk
  • Take ownership
  • Zero sum game – opposite of win-win situation
  • Team player
  • It’s a no-brainer
  • Get ahead of the curve

If you want even more examples checkout Seth Godin’s The Encyclopedia of Business Clichés.

The use of buzz words has reached such heights that a game has come about just for this.  Add some fun to any boring, buzzword-filled meeting by playing the game of Buzzword Bingo. Create a bingo card and take it with you to your next meeting. (Be subtle about this—not every manager has a sense of humor). Mark the buzzwords as you hear them. You do not actually win anything when you complete a row across, down or diagonally, but it helps pass the time. Here are some sites to help you get started:

Tom Terez has created a Buzzword Bingo card for a Better Workplace Now that changes each time you refresh the page—hours of fun here.
Business Buzzword Bingo by Karl Geiger’s generates bingo cards with the business buzzwords randomly distributed. His site also includes a nice history of the game’s birth and rebirth. And then there is Robie the Robot Buzzword Bingo Card Generator

Or, create your own buzzword bingo card by entering 25 buzzwords that are unique or favored by your organization also from Karl Geiger.

Do you have some buzzwords or clichés you would like to get off your chest? Add them to your comments, I am sure others will relate.

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