The CompTIA Project+ project management life cycle is sound and proven. It is based on best practices that can produce successful projects when followed correctly. However, the processes and practices are implemented by people—IT people with a tendency to be less conscientious concerning following processes and procedures. As discussed earlier, researchers have found that failure of IT projects is generally the result of neglect of the behavioral and social factors—influenced by management, the organization, and culture— rather than the technology itself (Th ite, 1999).
This propensity of IT geeks to behave in a less-than-conscientious manner introduces challenging human factors and presents a risk to IT projects and a threat to the delivery of quality project outcomes. For example, several systems administrators that were on my teams vehemently resisted documenting procedures for critical tasks, such as performing system backups and restores. Some resisted providing training for other team members. Their attitude was, “Since I figured this out on my own, so should they”—a selfish, less- than-conscientious attitude that could put projects at risk. Strong leadership is necessary to positively influence the human factors and mitigate these risks. The quality of the IT project leader’s performance needs to be assessed throughout the project, with corrective action taken as necessary to ensure that his or her leadership produces the required team performance results.
As discussed in Chapter 3, the IT project leader needs to be mindful of his or her team members’ mental states throughout the project management life cycle, communicating with emotional intelligence in order to gain an understanding of their values, beliefs, assumptions, and expectations to enable the IT geek leader to tailor interactions with team members and stakeholders accordingly. Introverted IT geek project leaders need to be mindful of how this propensity can impede their ability to communicate effectively and how it can create psychological noise that distorts their messages. Detail-minded IT geek leaders need to be especially self-aware. They need to understand that, as leaders, they should work hard to see the big picture, crafting a vision for their projects and programs, and communicating this vision in order to motivate their team members and to inform and inspire project stakeholders.
The self-leadership techniques presented in Chapter 4 can help IT geek leaders add the leadership tools to their mental tool boxes that can enable them to be visionary, communicative, and inspiring. Using positive self-talk helps IT geek leaders believe in their own leadership ability. IT geek leaders can teach themselves to monitor their own behavior, mindfully making adjustments in their communications and actions that set positive examples for their team members. IT geek leaders who take the time and effort to understand themselves, their own personal styles—as presented in Chapter 6—and the personal styles of their teammates are better equipped to make the proper behavioral adjustments. The IT geek leaders’ awareness of self and awareness of others enables versatility—the ability to interact effectively with people, making efforts to tolerate people with styles that are different from their own. This enhanced awareness and versatile behavior builds credibility with others, distinguishing IT geek leaders from their peers, enabling them to stand out as leaders.
Organizations supporting IT projects need to provide IT geek leaders the support required to overcome the tendencies that can hinder their ability to effectively lead their projects and that can thwart their ability to produce intended project outcomes. Industry standards such as ISO/IEC 20000 provide principles that can be tailored to develop a structure and environment for planning, monitoring, and assessing IT project leadership.
The ISO/IEC 20000 Service Management Standard is the internationally recognized standard in IT service management. It was first published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in 2005 and revised in 2011. The standard addresses the need to audit the skills and abilities of IT personnel performing in their respective roles. ISO/IEC 20000 specifies that all people who have a management role have the correct skills to deliver effective results (Kunas, 2012). Figure 7-2 represents ISO/IEC 20000 guidance for assessing personnel skills and abilities.
These skills include leadership skills. The required leadership skills need to be identified and training provided. The application of these skills needs to be monitored, assessed, and continually improved in pursuit of leadership excellence. Leadership needs the same level of focus as risk management, quality management, change management, communications management, and other critical project management processes.
Figure 7-2 ISO/IEC 20000 Resource Management. [Data derived from Kunas, M. (2013). Implementing Service Quality Based on ISO/IEC 20000. Ashland, OH: ITGP.]
In the case of quality management, ISO/IEC 20000 provides standards for delivering quality IT services. Quality planning specifies the quality standards that are important to a project. The organization develops quality standards and determines how they are to be applied within projects. Quality assurance deals with evaluating overall performance throughout the project management life cycle. Quality control activities monitor project results to determine compliance with prescribed standards and identifies ways to improve quality (Schwalbe, 2000).
Quality assessments can be both quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative assessments refer to performance metrics that can be measured and can be expressed in numbers. Examples of quantitative measurements include network response time and mean time between failure. Qualitative measures are subjective and are expressed in words. These measurements include stakeholders’ opinions, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes about the entity or subject matter being measured. Qualitative measurements are taken using surveys, interviews, observation, and document content analysis (Westcott, 2006).
Quality assessments are useful not only for measurement of project deliverables, but also for assessing and evaluating leadership performance. IT project leaders require a qualitative review, which is subjective in nature. It measures the senior leader’s impressions of the IT project leader’s consistency and adherence to leadership standards established within the organization, or if absent from the organization, established within the project.
Figure 7-3 shows the CompTIA Project+ domains with integrated leadership assessments and control mechanisms.
This new integrated leadership assessment and control strategy ensures that not only schedule, budget, and quality performance metrics are reviewed, but also leadership performance metrics. Consistent with ISO/IEC 20000, it enables definition of leadership roles, responsibilities, and skill requirements; review of leadership competence and training needs; and promotion of the awareness, relevance, and importance of meeting leadership targets.
During the Initiation/Pre-Project Setup phase, the organization’s leadership defines the leadership standards for the IT project leader and references those standards in the Project Charter. The project sponsor briefs the IT project leader on the standards during the project initiation gate review, stressing the importance of adhering to the standards throughout the project management life cycle, setting expectations for the IT project leader’s performance. The standards need to include expectations for the IT project leader to establish a project vision, to follow project management standards, to build and maintain relationships, to communicate effectively—delivering bad news early—and to adhere to the leadership principles provided in Chapter 2.
Next, during the Project Planning phase, IT project leaders develop the Project Management Plan for the project. This plan needs to include a Leadership Integration Plan that explains the project leader’s approach to adhering to the leadership standards, the qualitative performance metrics used to assess leadership performance, and the schedule for these assessments. The assessment includes a leadership self-assessment, as presented at the end of Chapter 2. The IT project leaders coordinate with the project sponsor to develop an approach to a leadership audit and include this approach in the Leadership Integration Plan. IT project leaders and project sponsors should assess the leadership training needs for the IT project leader and team leads, making preparations to provide the required training.
Finally, because effective followership is required for effective leadership, IT project managers develop a Team Charter, as discussed in Chapter 5, which is closely aligned with the staffing management plan, describing the roles, responsibilities, and processes for team member participation on the project. The Leadership Integration Plan should reference the staffing management plan’s approach to rewarding excellent performers, coaching challenged performers, and disciplining non-performers. The Leadership Integration Plan integrates the staffing management plan, the Team Charter, and qualitative quality management processes across the project management life cycle. The organization’s governance body approves the Leadership Integration Plan as a component of the Project Management Plan at the end of the Project Planning phase.
Figure 7-3 CompTIA Project+ domains with integrated leadership assessment and control mechanisms. [Source: Heldman, K. and Heldman, W. (2010). CompTIA Project+ Study Guide. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing. See Disclaimer page xix.
During the next phase, Project Execution and Delivery, IT project leaders present the
Team Charter to the team during the kickoff meeting. Each member of the team signs the charter and receives a copy. IT project leaders enter into dialogue with each of their team members, using emotionally intelligent communications to ensure that each team member understands performance expectations. IT project leaders monitor the performance of their team members to ensure that they are in compliance with the Team Charter. They take corrective action for non-compliance with performance requirements and they reward, coach, and discipline team members as required. It is important that IT project leaders establish relationships with each team member in order to learn what motivates him or her, and then find ways to nurture this motivation.
During the Change Control and Communications phase, the IT project leader performs a leadership self-assessment, and the project sponsor performs his or her leadership assessment. The IT project leader and the project sponsor should meet to discuss the results of the assessments to determine if any corrective actions to the IT project leader’s approach are required. This gives IT project leaders the feedback they need to improve their leadership effectiveness.
At the senior leader’s discretion, the organization provides resources to perform a leadership audit. The audit includes an evaluation of IT project leader performance with respect to the Leadership Integration Plan and team performance with respect to the Team Charter.
These assessments and audits should take place whenever the organization or the project sponsor feels they are necessary, not just as scheduled in the Leadership Integration Plan. These assessments do not replace annual performance reviews, but instead the results of the assessments should feed the annual performance reviews. There should be several performance assessments and audits conducted throughout the year, not just one evaluation at performance appraisal time.
Finally, during the Project Closure phase, IT project leaders should perform the final performance appraisals for their team members, providing needed feedback that can help them improve their performance. They should also document lessons learned about their own leadership effectiveness and the effectiveness of the Leadership Integration Plan. Project sponsors and IT project leaders should discuss the lessons learned and develop a plan for the IT project leaders to make leadership improvements prior to the commencement of their next projects.
If the organization has not established leadership standards, project leaders should establish their own and perform their own leadership self-assessments and continuous improvements. This is the honorable and responsible course of action and is the mark of an ambitious and exceptional project leader. As discussed in the Chapter 5, Followership, good followers create and adhere to their own high standards. This principle also applies to the IT project leader serving in the role of follower in a larger program or organization.
Best Practice: US Air Force Airman Comprehensive Assessment (ACA)
The US Air Force integrates leadership assessments and feedback into their evaluation process for officers and enlisted personnel in every discipline. The leadership integration principles presented in this chapter for IT project leaders is consistent with those of the US Air Force:
- • The USAF defines standards for leadership and trains members on those standards.
- • The USAF established a mandatory process, the Airman Comprehensive Assessment (ACA), designed to provide periodic performance feedback on leadership, primary duties, followership, and training for officers and enlisted personnel.
- • The ACA feedback sessions must take place within 60 days of initial supervision, at the midterm of the performance review period, and within 60 days of the annual performance review.
- • Team members can request ACA feedback from their supervisors.
- • The USAF encourages supervisors to perform ACAs face to face with their team members in order to facilitate dialogue and open communications, encouraging supervisors to get to know their Airmen (US Air Force, 2013).
After serving 21 years in the US Air Force, with experience as an enlisted member, an officer, an active duty member, and a reservist, I have intimate knowledge of the US Air Force’s ability to build leaders in every discipline, including information technology. In the civilian world, as a consultant, I have had the honor of providing services to the US Air Force, gaining yet another perspective on their operational and leadership practices. Integrating leadership assessment and monitoring into current IT industry project management practices, in the same spirit as that applied in the US Air Force, can improve IT project leader performance across the industry.