Leadership Series No.3: Key leadership traits

The third article in our leadership series takes a look at the characteristics associated with leadership.  

What are the traits that make a successful leader?

Clearly, there are many important aspects, and some will be valued above others according to the particular context. In this article, I’ll examine multiple perspectives on the key traits of leadership, to identify those behaviors that are most commonly acclaimed. The three management authors and speakers discussed are Deep Patel (Forbes, 11 powerful leadership traits), LearningREADefined (7 key traits of leadership), and Brian Tracy (7 qualities of good leaders).

Leadership Traits

Deep Patel (Forbes) (forbes.com) LearningREADefined Brian Tracy (briantracy.com)
Having a vision for the future Proactive attitude Vision
Being accountable and responsible Are accountable Integrity
Being and Effective Communicator Radiate positive energy Focus
Acting Strategically Delegate tasks completely Strategic planning
Creating lasting relationships Are approachable Cooperation
Teambuilding and promoting teamwork Do what they expect of others Humility
Setting clear goals and persisting in achieving them Are decisive Courage
Self-Managing    
Managing complexity    
Fostering creativity and innovation    
Learning agility    

Analysis highlights the many similarities between these independent lists. The emerging themes are: Vision, Accountability, Strategic planning, Teambuilding and Decision-making.

Vision: Also a key Project DPro competency (12), Vision is the ability to contemplate the future. In this sense, Vision is closely linking to strategic planning as it entails finding time among the day-to-day management of operational issues to think about and plan for the future.

Accountability: Taking accountability and responsibility is another common trait. Author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy prefers the term Integrity, which invokes a sense of honesty and transparency.

Strategic planning: Deep Patel’s more substantial list of leadership qualities includes Managing complexity and Learning agility, but another common element is that of strategic action/planning.

From a Teamwork perspective, we can link LearningREADefined’s “Do what they expect of others” to the “Humility” extolled by Brian Tracy and Deep Patel’s “Creating lasting relationships” to reveal an interpretation of leading people as setting an example among equals. Moving away from the Organizational hierarchy, leaders nurture and foster relationships from a long-term perspective.

Finally, Decision-making. The emphasis here is on being timely and decisive. Leaders won’t always have the benefit of all the information necessary to make an easy decision, but, according to Tracy, they must have the “Courage” of their convictions.           

Next time, we’ll look at leadership in adversity.

How to be a great leader – The 7 Great Leadership traits (LearningREADefined)  

Leadership Series No.2: Leadership & Management

In this second article of the leadership series, we’ll delve into the differences between management and leadership. Let’s begin with some definitions. According to the OED, management is defined as:

“The process of dealing with or controlling things or people”

Leadership is defined by the OED as:

“The action of leading a group of people or an organization”

The first definition is striking, even alarming, in its use of the verb “control” – a word with often negative connotations. Through the absence of the controlling element, the definition of leadership indicates that the role is on one hand more positive, and on the other more complex.   

The Smarp blog highlights the differences between managers and leaders by emphasizing that managers are still followers, as they “follow the vision” and “endorse the culture” while leaders “set the vision” and “shape the culture”.

The overarching premise of leadership is that through ideas, vision and examples, the leader inspires people to follow their path.      

Leadership guru Simon Sinek insists that leadership is not being in charge but taking care of those in our charge. The key difference is that managers, by controlling, seek to be in charge of the output or results of their staff. In contrast, leaders are not responsible for the job performed by their people, but rather they are responsible for the people doing the job.    

In term of project management, Sinek’s teachings are highly representative of the “Servant leader” associated with Agile Project Management.

We surmise by saying that a project leader hires the right people for the job and facilitates their work by removing obstacles from their path.  

The Principled Manager: Adaptive

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development.

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Adaptive. To find out more, consult pages 179-183 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 156-167 of the Program DPro Guide.

Adaptive

While one of the main objectives of project management is to create and implement a plan, the ability to Adapt as the project progresses is a key principle of Project DPro. The Adaptive principle relates to Monitoring, Evaluation & Control, especially the control of changes made to the project plan.

Projects and Programs are living entities, and the DPro Manager must respond to changes and issues as they arise during their project or program. The Adaptive principle is applied during all the phases of Project and Program DPro.

Adaptive and Decision Gates

The points at which the DPro Manager can employ the Adaptive principle include Decision Gates, which are valuable opportunities to assess how the project or program has progressed. The Adaptive manager uses decision gates as opportunities to reassess and reanalyze the project information at their disposal

Adaptive and Covid-19

A very current and very real example of the need to be Adaptive is the Covid-19 crisis. The innumerable development projects and programs in operation when the crisis hit will have had to adapt to the restrictions and effects of Covid-19. Inability to do so will, in many cases, will have endangered the success of those projects and programs.  

Conclusion: Adaptability assumes increasing importance

The speed of technological change, and issues such as climate change, show that Covid-19 is not the only external factor requiring adaptability to changing circumstances. Perhaps more than any other Project and Program DPro principle, Adaptive will assume even more importance in the future.    

The Principled Manager: Integrated

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development.

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Integrated. To find out more, consult pages 177-8 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 148-155 of the Program DPro Guide.

Integrated

Whereas the Comprehensive principle ensures that each Project Management discipline and Phase is treated with the same rigor, the Integrated principle requires the successful coordination of those disciplines and phases.

One of the key areas highlighting the necessity for Integrated management is the triple constraint triangle: the associations between quality, cost, and time providing the perfect demonstration of the importance of integration.

Integrated and Phases

For the management of projects, the Integrated principle is most relevant to the latter phases of Implementation and Closure, when the project is manages across different disciplines. The earlier phases of the project provide the foundation and planning necessary for successful Integrated management.

From Program Management perspective, Integrated relates to the four phases of Identification, Design, Planning and Implementation, and Closure. The Identification phase includes the Integrated alignment of the program with organizational strategy, and the Design phase includes the Integrated analysis of risks at program level.      

Conclusion: Harmonious Whole

While the Comprehensive principle considers the depth and rigor of attention to project management disciplines, the Integrated principle ensures that work comes together as a harmonious whole. In the context of Program Management, this requires aligning the work of individual projects and other activities so that the program can achieve its strategic objectives.     

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) as COVID-19 Risks Management Tool

By Bimal Ghimire

COVID-19 Pandemic has brought a new set of challenges and risks while managing projects in the recent time. Even though identifying and managing risks through risk management framework has been a norm among project management practitioners around the world, it will be difficult to find evidence of any project which could have anticipated and managed risk of this nature and level before this Pandemic. As a result, implementation of on-going projects has been affected and these needed changing some or all areas of project management e.g. scope/quality, time/schedule and/or cost/resources.

The Triple Constraint Triangle from Project D Pro

While many projects are already adopted as per the new normal, there is still a risk of COVID-19 and will continue to be so for up to several months or years in future despite the discovery of vaccine recently as it might take a long time to reach all the population of this world. Every project management requires at least some level of engagement within the project team and with stakeholders (including end beneficiaries) to plan and deliver its work effectively. Along with the Pandemic and restriction in movement, there has been increasing use of virtual/online means for communication, collaboration and even virtual visit which has contributed a lot in managing project. However, it is very difficult if not impossible to manage all the work virtually especially in development sector because many of the projects are implemented in remote and/or least developed areas. Therefore, to be able to continue projects to reach the people and communities in need, it is beneficial to develop and apply SOP which helps in managing the project risks.

While many projects are already adopted as per the new normal, there is still a risk of COVID-19 and will continue to be so for up to several months or years in future despite the discovery of vaccine recently as it might take a long time to reach all the population of this world. Every project management requires at least some level of engagement within the project team and with stakeholders (including end beneficiaries) to plan and deliver its work effectively. Along with the Pandemic and restriction in movement, there has been increasing use of virtual/online means for communication, collaboration and even virtual visit which has contributed a lot in managing project. However, it is very difficult if not impossible to manage all the work virtually especially in development sector because many of the projects are implemented in remote and/or least developed areas. Therefore, to be able to continue projects to reach the people and communities in need, it is beneficial to develop and apply SOP which helps in managing the project risks.

The US Environmental Protection Agency defines SOP as a document that provides set of instruction for a routine or repetitive work carried out by an organization. It further states SOP could be specific to the nature and need of an organization and it can help organization to maintain and ensure quality of process and to comply with organization as well as government regulation. With reference to this definition, SOP can be an important vehicle to mitigate COVID-19 related risks in a project. Even though SOP is generally applied in an organization with repetitive nature of work e.g. medical, it can also be adopted and applied in development projects because project also involves operation and administrative work and often there are similar set of activities in a project such as orientation and training.

Now the question is how to develop and apply SOP for a project to mitigate COVID-19 related risk to ensure health and safety of project team and stakeholders? Generally, a project in development sector delivers work in one or more of the following areas:

a. Office operation (desk-based work)
b. Meeting with stakeholders
c. Field visit and monitoring
d. Orientation and training
e. Construction activities

To take an example, if a project delivers its activities via desk-based work, then it can begin SOP development process by assessing and identifying risks related to COVID-19 while working in the office. After identifying risks, it should prepare mitigation measures considering the health and safety guideline of the organization, government and WHO as relevant and these measures can be implemented via standard operating procedures (SOP). Now, you might think why not COVID-19 related risks is simply mitigated through risk mitigation plan as before; but the advantage of SOP is that it helps to maintain and ensure quality of process and operation more systematically and effectively which is critical considering the current Pandemic. Once it is ready, the SOP should be communicated to the project team properly so that they understand and follow it thoroughly.

To make SOP for office operation more effective, some guiding questions might help for example: if SOP is easily accessible to read and easy to understand, if hygiene kit (mask, gloves, sanitizer, soap and water etc.) is available in office, if office/work space cleaned on regular intervals, if work space is arranged to maintain social distance, if work from home should be considered/continued, and if transportation should be organized for staff who depend on public transportation etc. Similarly, it is also important to consider how the suspected and infected staffs are handled, how the vulnerable staffs are taken care of, and how the COVID-19 related cost (for prevention and treatment) is covered. As the Pandemic is unfolding slowly and still unpredictable it is necessary to constantly review and update SOP on a regular interval such as weekly/bi-weekly or monthly. It is also important to identify focal person for communicating, monitoring and reporting of SOP implementation and escalating any risks or issues (including safeguarding) to appropriate level. If the project works with partner, it is also necessary to ensure the partner adopts similar approach to minimize risk throughout the entire delivery chain. Finally, the project should have functional grievance handling mechanism to ensure accountability and transparency in its work. The same approach can be taken to develop and apply SOP for other areas as mentioned above if needed.

The Principled Manager: Comprehensive

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development.

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Comprehensive. To find out more, consult pages 174-176 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 136-147 of the Program DPro Guide.

Comprehensive

In essence, comprehensive project management involves applying equal rigor and attention to each phase of the project, ensuring that all project components (direct and indirect) are delivered and documented effectively.

For some, the Comprehensive Principle is the embodiment of the challenges facing a Project Manager: the necessity to tackle numerous disciplines, each with different skillsets, with the aim of achieving strength across multiple areas.

Stakeholder management, Risk management, and MEAL planning and implementation are just three of the distinct areas across which Project Managers apply their skills and competencies.  

Comprehensive and Competencies

Given the range of skills involved in managing comprehensively, we advise Project and Program Managers to develop their abilities on the basis of PM4NGOs’ competency framework, which contains competencies relating to the following areas:

  • Technical
  • Leadership and Interpersonal
  • Personal and Self-management
  • Development sector specific
  • Program Management

Across these categories, there are 36 competencies which together comprise the entire skillset of Project and Program Management in the development and humanitarian sectors.

Conclusion: Continuous Development

To become a truly Comprehensive Project or Program Manager requires a commitment to the continuous improvement of skills in a number of areas. Project Managers are therefore lifelong learners who constantly upgrade their knowledge and abilities.   

The Principled Manager: Participatory

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development:

  • Well Governed
  • Participatory
  • Comprehensive
  • Integrated
  • Adaptive

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Participatory. To find out more, consult pages 170-173 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 127-135 of the Program DPro Guide.

Participatory

Participatory project management sets a foundation for:

  • Managing Expectations
  • Comprehensive Project Identification, Definition, and Planning
  • Clear Communication
  • Project Sustainability
  • Engagement of Stakeholders

Participatory is considered by many to be non-negotiable in the development sector. Projects and programs must often be inclusive of an array of stakeholders incorporating their views, opinions and needs throughout the phases of Project DPro.  

Participatory and Covid-19

Covid-19 has had a drastic impact on the way in which people communicate with each other. In terms of people’s participation in development, NGOs and development agencies are faced with challenges relating to the fostering of “Good” participation.

Especially in the early stages of a project, when diagnosing development contexts and performing needs analysis, “normal” participatory practices would often involve the convening of large meetings and workshops.

The value of such participatory activities not only relates the collaborative construction of knowledge, but also provides a form of social cohesion between the project and its stakeholders.

Conclusion: the greatest challenge?

More than any other Project and Program DPro Principles, and perhaps more than any other aspect of Project and Program Management, Participatory has been affected greatly by Covid-19.

NGOs and Project Managers are faced with finding ways of overcoming the obstacles created by Covid-19, and are endeavoring to answer a number of key questions:

  • How can the benefits of participation be maintained during online activities?
  • How do NGOs overcome the fact that technology accentuates disparities in development settings?
  • Which factors affect decisions over whether to go ahead with face-to-face activities?   

The Principled Manager: Well Governed

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development:

  • Well Governed
  • Participatory
  • Comprehensive
  • Integrated
  • Adaptive

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Well Governed. To find out more, consult pages 166-169 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 117-126 of the Program DPro Guide.

Well Governed

The governance structure of a project/program defines the management framework within which project/program decisions are made.

The governance structure is established during the Identification phase and aims to ensure organizational commitment and accountability within the project or program.

The governance structure works in combination with project tolerances. Once set, tolerances establish when it is necessary to escalate an issue.

Well Governed and Covid-19

The financial effects of the Covid-19 health crisis heighten the necessity to observe tolerance levels and make decisions according to an ever-changing context. Indeed, all aspects of Well Governed across the phases of projects and programs are affected by the covid-19 crisis:

  • Identification: Board and Alignment with program and portfolio structure
  • Set Up: Governance Structure and Tolerances
  • Planning: Communication, Decision Gates and Risk planning
  • Implementation: Issue and risk management, Change Control
  • Closure: Lessons learned

Since an important aspect of Well Governed is to support the Project Managers on issues that are beyond their control, the new reality provided by Covid-19 serves to highlight the importance of an effective Governance structure for programs and projects.

Conclusion: one of five

The Well Governed Principle works in harmony with the four other principles by facilitating and fostering an environment in which those Principles can be practiced more effectively.

Project DPro and Program DPro: Know your phases!

Introduction

For anyone wishing to place projects in the context of programs, and start thinking about the connections and differences between Project DPro and Program DPro, here we present a brief discussion of the phases involved in project and program management.

Project DPro

Let’s begin with Project DPro, which contains the five management phases of Identification and Definition, Set Up, Planning, Implementation and Closure. Remember that the First edition of PMD Pro contained a sixth phase,   “Monitoring, Evaluation and Control”. The second edition now recognizes that MEAL activities (Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning) occur throughout the phase model, and thus incorporate MEAL into each Project DPro phase.  

The Project DPro phase model shows that Planning and Implementation are iterative.

Project DPro Phases

Program DPro

The four phases of Program DPro are in many senses similar to the Project DPro model. With the major difference being the combination of Planning and Implementation into just one phase.

The Program DPro phases of Identification and Closure occur either side of iterations of Design and Planning & Implementation. When creating this Program Management cycle, PM4NGOs wished to reflect the strategic nature of Program Management.     

So, how does this work in practice? During the Program Design phase, a roadmap is created which shows how the different elements of the program will fit together, providing a framework for the management of individual projects. Here, the strategic nature of Program Management is most evident. The component projects of the program will each have a project manager, so management occurs at a higher level. Planning and Implementation of program components interacts iteratively with the Design phase.

Program DPro Phases

Principles and Decision Gates

Two key elements of both Project DPro and Program DPro are the Principles underlying management and decision gates. When using the principles of Well Governed, Participatory, Comprehensive, Integrated, and Adaptive at both project and program levels, we can create cohesion in our overall management approach.

For both processes, decision gates provide management with crucial opportunities to stop and reflect before committing to proceed with the project or program.    

Disciplines

Six disciplines are critical for both project and program managers. Five of these: Justification, Time, Scope, Risk and Stakeholder are the same for projects and programs. Whereas Project Management includes the key discipline of Resource Management, Program DPro’s focus on Financial management reflects the strategic nature of Program Management.

Learn more

For more information you can download both the Project DPro Second Edition, and Program DPro from the main PM4NGOs website.

How to create and manage an Issue Log

Creating an Issue Log is an activity performed during project Implementation. The PMD Pro Guide defines an issue as:

An issue is an unresolved decision, situation or problem that will significantly impact the project and that the project team cannot immediately resolve.

The Issue Log is a tool for reporting and communicating designed to facilitate the timely resolution of issues. Without an issue log, it is possible to either ignore or forget about issues arising, only for those issues to have more serious consequences later on.

Click here to read this full guidance and access the series of “How to” guides available at the DPro+ platform.


The “How to” guides are booklets that present guidance and tips to develop some of the Project DPro and Program DPro tools. Some of the activities related to the project/program management routine are also included in the “How To” collection.

If you have an idea for a “How to” guide or you would like to write one, please contact our team and share your experience.

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