Project Practitioners > Back to the Future of PM

Back to the Future of PM

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


Technology has inundated our lives to the point of the thought of leaving your phone elsewhere is paralyzing. You must be connected at all times just in case. In case of what? The unknown.


The unknown is scary. Who could have called? What is somebody trying to tell me while I am unavailable? What if I am the only one with the answer? How will the project survive without me?


These fanciful ideas of your importance are common because of this constant connection to the world. Guess what? Your team probably appreciates your absence. Then, instead of a watchful eye they are wary of, they can actually get some work done without criticism.


Technology emphasizes that desire to be important. Social media shines a spotlight on our highlights and pushes away any lowlights. Who wants to see you pulling your hair out because of a delayed vendor when they can see old pictures of your vacation from a year ago? Your life is amazing.


Technology has made project management easier. You can track, control, and execute projects much quicker with the advent of cell phones, laptops, and software. Technology is not all bad. With its constant connectedness, you can reach anybody at any time anywhere in the world. There is no excuse for not getting a message as one can be sent a million different ways.


However, with the implementation of technology, project management becomes people management. Technology levels the playing field of knowledge. Anyone can search online for the answer. There is no need to memorize facts or statistics as a smartphone in our pocket has the processing power never before seen.


If you think you need a fancy application or the latest tactic to manage a project, you are looking in the wrong places. Get back to people management. The soft skills are the differentiator in project managers nowadays. Jobs are listed all across America for the same position you currently hold. Why would you stay with a boss you do not like when another opening just came through your email?


What are those basics?



  1. Build Relationships

When you have a relationship with a vendor or owner, they are more likely to go that extra mile in times of need. If you are a name on a computer screen with a fancy signature line, you are a cog in the machine.


Many times I have made a call on Friday evening for a vendor or technician to drive across town in weekend traffic to take care of an emergency. Continually, these individuals do not hesitate. If you treat them right week after week, they will reciprocate.


You provide these vendors and subcontractors with continual work, and they find it easy to drive across town to take care of your issue. You become a priority because of your treatment towards them.


If you treat people with respect and decency, the favor is returned. If you try to catch them in lies and provide screenshot texts of agreements you had, they start to question your motives.


  1. Act

The planning is done. The words have been spoken. The team is assembled. There is only thing left to do, act. Start doing the things you talk about doing. Technology makes it easier to share your opinion. If you are reading this, this qualifies as such.


Rather than just spouting off 1,000-word articles every week talking about what could be done better, I would rather share stories of things I have done and what I could have done better for your benefit. Do not make the same mistakes and here is how to avoid those traps.


People who talk about how great they are are rarely ever as great as the stories they present. Let your resume do the talking for you. There is no need to hang countless framed pieces of paper in your office to prove your authority. Your authority becomes evident when you make the correct decisions over and over again. Anyone can compile a mass of degrees and certifications. Not everyone can take a team and uplift them.


  1. Purge

If the activity or team member is not moving the project forward, time to purge. Eliminate all time wasters. Answering every email as it comes in is a time waster. Reacting to every work order a tenant submits as if it is ASAP is a time waster.


These activities only increase stress and lead to less production. Set out blocks of time to deal with important issues. No distractions, just work. If you find to-do list activities never getting done, how important are they? Probably not very. You should purge those immediately.


Doing more with less is the goal. Use 80/20 analysis to find the most impactful activities, team members, vendors, and so on. Once identified, start to cut loose the baggage. All the negative impacts on the project must go immediately. No hesitation. What are you waiting for? The past year has not been a large enough sample to determine their release.




Technology is great when it works. Lately, I see more of a negative impact on the increased use of technology. Bosses are asking employees to be available during vacations, weekends, or after hours. This blurred line between life and work does not win anyone’s favor.


You become a burden in someone’s life rather than someone assisting or helping him or her achieve a goal. Your name when it pops up on the phone becomes a swear word. There is one individual whose name comes up on my phone, and I already know it is going to be negative. Criticism of what needs to be done better or what mistake I made. Never is it positive. Do not be that person.


Building a relationship with people avoids this issue. You become someone they want to speak to and offer help. You display your leadership through action rather than processes or practices designed to turn everyone into a robot. You purge those individuals and activities who do not promote this environment. Positivity and optimism are themes amongst successful teams. The second there is in-fighting and finger-pointing is the second the bell curve starts to decline.


Hop in your DeLorean. Lace up your Nikes. Go back to the future of project management.

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