I am so excited to come to Echo after many years of project management and operational experience at organizations in Washington, DC and Vermont. I’ve worked with government agencies, local service providers, non-profits, and start-ups, and seen many ways to manage projects. All the organizations I’ve worked with strove to follow some kind of project management strategy, and often leaned on software tools for help, choosing from the myriad of options now available.
But no matter the team configuration or specifics of the project deliverables, there was always an “x” factor in my past organizations that I noticed could make or break a project: leadership. No matter how all-inclusive a project management solution may sound, it can never substitute totally for good leadership.
In fact, bad leadership, or a lack of leadership (which is really the same thing) can undermine the most diligently planned project, often without anyone realizing that it is happening. I’ve learned this somewhat through negatives – by seeing and experiencing many examples of inadequate or dysfunctional leadership. I worked with several large organizations that had very centralized, charismatic leadership that easily rallied the team around the same vision – but provided no protection for workers against burnout and cycled through new hires on a semi-annual basis. This was extremely demoralizing to the team and undermined many long-term efforts as team members left so frequently.
I’ve also spent countless hours on idealistic, well-planned efforts in the non-profit space that eventually flopped due to inadequate resourcing and a lack of stakeholder buy-in. The appeal of “doing good” in the world, even when backed up by worthy and tangible projects, is not enough when there aren’t enough people or funds to fully execute on the work.
I’ve also worked on teams that had great culture and support for team members but lacked overall vision and measurable goals. These teams were just “getting by” month to month with the immediate work in front of them, but the lack of direction or movement towards objectives that everyone could join led to team members working at cross-purposes, if at all. It also made meaningful planning beyond the immediate days or weeks extremely difficult.
How can this kind of project failure happen so consistently across different projects and organizations? While the specifics are different for each case, the overall theme is a lack of comprehensive and strategic leadership. In these previous experiences, efforts were made to use project management methods and tools to organize work and deliver outcomes, but missing or ill-suited leadership pieces ultimately sunk the projects or prevented work from getting off the ground in the first place.
Part of what makes good or bad leadership hard to identify at many organizations is that it is often invisible – while leaders may be failing to unify and nurture their teams, visualize and commit to long-term goals, or wholistically plan for all aspects of project work, there are often no metrics or common workspaces where these problems are being surfaced.
This is where project management methods and software tools can drastically improve a team’s experience and outcomes – by making all aspects of project planning “visible” and measurable. As long as leaders, and their teams, are willing to learn and grow, project management solutions can help create a better structure for their work and surface the areas where teams can improve into the future.
Making a change to adopt a new solution is risky for leaders and their teams – it takes time, investment, and holds the possibility of failure. But, the process of changing to use a project management solution, and helping your team adopt it, not only holds the promise of more high-quality projects delivered on time, but of leadership improvement, team growth, and overall work satisfaction.
I look forward to working with Echo clients to achieve this kind of project success! At Echo, we believe in working with leaders and teams wherever they are, whether they need help articulating foundational goals or organizing large Project Management Offices (PMOs). Too many projects fail, often due to leadership issues, but it doesn’t have to be that way – we can assist with any aspect of project management and organizational change you might be ready to tackle.