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HourglassThe APM’s definition of a project is “A unique, transient endeavour undertaken to achieve planned objectives”.

Don’t you just love that word, transient? Therein lies the challenge facing a project manager. He or she has been assigned a transient (that word again) team; a bunch of disparate, sometimes desparate, people who may not know each other but who nevertherless are expected to collaborate and deliver some pretty serious business objectives within an infeasibly short period of time.

At best – all the planets are aligned – and you’ve been given a crack team of seasoned professionals. They have a good track record of working together on past projects and relish the challenge that lies ahead.

At worst, you’re in charge of a coalition of the unwilling, some of whom do indeed have a history (ahem!) of working together. To cap it all, their loyalty is not to you but remains with their departmental bosses, the guys who do their appraisals & pay reviews. They’ve been seconded to you but they are way out of their comfort zone.

So how do you mould this bunch of misfits into a coherent team, all pulling in the same direction, towards a planned objective?

That, my friend, is the secret ingredient of project management. They don’t teach it on a PRINCE2 course but it’s the magical combination of soft power, mind games, grit and fairy dust that the text books call leadership. It’s intangible – but you’ll know it when you see it.

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