The Great Project Manager (Part4) – Disciplined Thoughts

Posted on June 26, 2009

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hedgehoSeveral years ago, I have the chance to read Jim Collins’ book – “Good to Great” (G2G), that has changed the way I was approaching performance in Project Management. I suggest to share with you my learnings in applying the different concepts raised in this book into the management of Strategic Projects.

The 5 key idea sets of G2G are: Level 5 LeadershipFirst Who, then WhatConfront the brutal factsHedgehog ConceptThe Flywheel and the Doom Loop.


A Hedgehog Concept is a simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of the following three circles:

1 – What are you deeply passionate about. The good to great companies focused on those activities that ignited their passion. The idea here is not to stimulate passion but to discover what make you passionate.

2 -What you can be the best in the world at (and, equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at). This discerning standard goes far beyond core competence. Just because you possess a core competence doesn’t necessarily mean you can be the best in the world at it. Conversely, what you can be the best at might not even be something in which you are currently engaged.

3 – What drives your economical engine. All the good to great companies attained piercing insight into how to most effectively generate sustained and robust cash flow and profitability. In particular, they discovered the simple denominator – profit per x – that had the greatest impact on their economics. (It would be cash flow per x in the social sector.)

One of the key findings of J. Collins in the analysis of this comcept is that “it took four years in average for the Good to Great companies to get a Hedgehog Concept”. It will be foolish in our case trying to figure out how to apply this concept to a specific project. However we might approach it thru the Project Manager Carreer.

Although Project Management is often considered as a unique and coherent discipline, multiple profiles of project managers exist. We observe individuals thriving in a specific industry (Telecom, Public sector etc…), in a specific discipline (Buidling, logistic, Information technology etc..), in a specific nature of project (small and straight forward versus large and complex). It appears that successful PMs tend to identify along their carrer the ideal association of several project characteristics, in which they will excel (finding therefore their own Hedgehog Concept)

Passion At Work

I’m always baffled by the level of excitement of great project managers whilst they are talking about their current endeavor. They have the art of laying it down in a way that you are immediately willing to join them and be part of the team. We can feel them fully engaged and committed on the highest level to the success of the initiative. This is what we called Passion. I’m sure you remember this guy/girl coming with a big smile on his/her face talking hours on a subject that you didn’t suspect it might interest someone, but you are still listening every words said. This person have found the perfect work, where he/she can ignite his/her passion on a daily basis.  Looking at your own career do you picture projects that provide you with this level of excitement and commitment? By finding the common traits of these projects you might understand what you are deeply passionate about.

Damned they know what they are talking about…

Great Project Managers are highly knowledgeable in the industry/discipline/area they work in. In addition they develop few skills to the highest possible level and use them  on their daily challenges. It could be communication, analytical, conceptual skills. This critical association of knowledge and skill make them appear as a reference in the community. Understanding what they could be the best at, did not happen overnight but result in a true search of excellence in their profession for years.

Economics as a conscequence

Great Project Managers have a strong reputation. The attractiveness of their demonstrated value proposition make them highly priced and continuously demanded. Trying to figure out what is true economical engine of a great PM, could be difficult as it highly depends on the structure is working in. However we might suspect, that gathering experience in a field they are passionate about and are considered as the bests in the world, economics could be “Annual Profit Growth”.

As a conclusion, understanding your own Hedgehog Concept (consisting of the intersection of the three circles), might take years of introspection but surely is the path to greatness for Project Managers.

The Great Project Manager Serie: Level 5 LeadershipFirst Who, then WhatConfront the brutal factsHedgehog ConceptThe Flywheel and the Doom Loop.

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