People deliver projects; not processes

It has been an interesting few months working with clients and listening to some of the issues course participants face:

  • My sponsor takes a too hands on/off approach and I find it difficult to deal with
  • I have a team member who despite saying they will deliver simply does not. No matter what I do they always fail to deliver and this is becoming concerning and demotivating for the team
  • My own line manager wants me to give more time to my ‘day job’ and I am torn between that and this key company project

Those are 3 examples of what has been said quite openly during training courses I was running. Now I know from discussions with groups that projects rarely fail to deliver for ‘process’ reasons – not completing a template fully or missing out a step in the project management life cycle. But, the 3 examples above could have a really negative impact in the project outcome if not dealt with and dealt with in the right way.

When asked what would I suggest I do not direct my answer to the specific example but say that project management professionals and those engaged in delivering projects should be developing their ‘soft’ skills. But what do I mean by soft skills? I mean

  • Being able to influence people effectively – particularly in times of large scale organisational change
  • Lstening effcetively
  • Asking questions
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Expressing how you feel about a situation, honestly
  • Motivating others
People deliver projects not processes

People deliver projects not processes *

These are only a few of the areas that need to be developed and honed. These skills are invaluable and will help to deal and manage the 3 situations (and hopefully more) The danger is that if you ignore these areas you will be faced with issues like the ones quoted and the impact…well I will leave you to decide.

Companies can have the ‘best’ project management framework but it is people who deliver projects. This means spending time and money developing these skills which will really help support delivery of projects.

So, how good are your soft skills and should we be including (more) soft skills training in project management courses?


*Image courtesy of

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3 Responses to People deliver projects; not processes

  1. Tom Hussey says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Many of the project managers I’ve been working with have been missing some of the requisite soft skills. Emotional intelligence is key to being a successful project manager.

    I’ve also noticed that PMs sometimes changes as they take on more responsibility. So, perhaps a project manager can build good relationships on a small project and manage it well but then this all goes out the window on larger, more stressful projects and the soft skills are forgotten as the stress increases.

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Hi Tom, many thanks for your comments.

      Sadly, I agree with what you say. One thing to add is the often negative role models of more senior managers. These words are mine but an interpretation of what actions senior managers take. Blame culture, finer wagging, lack of clarity and autonomy. are but some of the situations described by project managers. yes, they can influence however the actions of more senior managers do not encourage nor motivate others.

      Thanks again Tom.

  2. Ian Cribbes says:

    Hi Ron,
    Anther thought provoking article. I have come across all of the above and, at times struggled in dealing with them. Sometimes it boils down to the Functional Line Manager wanting his/her pound of flesh from their ‘loaned’ personnel. One of the issues with a matrix organisation. Sometimes it is down to the team member being a ‘poor fit’ for the project.

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