The Great Project Manager (Final Episode) – Building Momentum

Posted on July 1, 2009

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4x6_momentum web aloneSeveral 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.


The flywheel image captures the overall feel of what it was like inside the companies as they went from good to great. No matter how dramatic the end result, the good to great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. There was no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no wrenching revolution. Good to great comes about by a cumulative process – step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel – that adds up to sustained and spectacular results.

Here we are, this is the final episode of the serie “The Great Project Manager”. This flywheel’s  concept was for me certainly the most insightful of all and has truly changed the way I approach change in Project Management.

PM are often confronted with initiatives that truly challenge the established consensus, and impose an organization to change.  Most of the time, we call for change agents & dedicated program to help people transitioning to the target practices. But overall the experience of PM regarding changes are always challenging and you never seem to learn enough to have one flawless process that guaranty success.

According to Jim Collin’s study, good to great companies build momentum; step by step they are improving, and they do not seem to manage changes at all: it just happen. I understand how provocative this statement can be. However I personally discovered the power of such proposition whilst facing large strategic projects; and I have identified two principles that I try to enforce when dealing with such initiative.

1 – Building momentum starts with “Rules of engagement”. After having identify the right persons in the bus, it is important to set up some ground rules that will enable the team to work appropriately. Some example could be: “Meetings start and finish on time”, “Minutes are validated by the group, and always available”, “On a weekly basis an hour meeting is organized, seeking improvements to the way the team operates” etc… Although these measures will not deliver instant greatness, they are here to establish its foundation. Week after week the team will improve and deliver consistent results based on these principles.

2 – Rules of Engagement should enable targeted changes: You need to build inside your project the foundation for the changes you want to implement. If in the targeted model:

– People need to communicate virtually, use your project to infuse this type of change.

– Centralization of backoffice is required, embed progressively a similar approach in your project.

– Marketing need to be more proactive to customer expectation make them the champion of project improvements.

By applying these principles,  teams develop greatness overthe life of critical projects and adaptions to change are easier. Having said that we must recognize as professor George E. P. Box, “All models are wrong; some models are useful”. My proposal here is not to revolution the way we manage change in project, but rather to built on interesting findings to ease some of the pains we may be facing when dealing with changes.

That’s all folks. I really hope you enjoyed this serie of posts (The Great Project Manager”) as I did. I would like to thank you all for the encouragements, direct feedback and comments I received which helped me to finalize it in a reasonable time-frame.

Find the previous episodes here: Level 5 LeadershipFirst Who, then WhatConfront the brutal factsHedgehog ConceptThe Flywheel and the Doom Loop.

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