Project leadership

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Organisationseinheit, die für das Projekt verantwortlich ist

Project leadership is part of the project organization and is responsible for operational project control. The project leader monitors the progress of the project and provides team leadership. In small projects, project leadership is assumed by a single project leader or project manager, while in larger projects a group of people or several sub-project leaders fulfill these individual tasks. Project leadership can then be structured according to the following areas of responsibility:

  • Project planning: people are responsible for planning the project phases, activities, milestones and tasks that are interdependent in terms of time and scope.
  • Project controlling: People are responsible for monitoring project KPIs such as time or costs and the corresponding evaluation and reporting.
  • Project resource planning: People are responsible for the efficient and effective allocation of personnel, machines, software, premises, etc.
  • Process planning: People are responsible for the efficient design of and adherence to processes.
  • Quality management: People are responsible for compliance with quality standards.

Tasks of project leadership

The main goal of project leadership is to achieve the project objectives. In order to achieve these objectives, the following tasks must be fulfilled:

Project planning: Structuring the project

Project leadership develops a clear project structure by means of a work break down structure that is comprehensible to all project participants. Project phases with activities, milestones and tasks are defined in terms of time and scope and visualized in a project plan, e.g. in the form of a Gatt diagram. If necessary, agile planning, e.g. according to Scrum or using a Kanban board, or hybrid project management is used instead of this classic project management method. This is why people in project leadership usually have project management certification and experience in applying one or more methods.

Project management: management of resources and processes

Broadly speaking, project leadership is responsible for using the available resources efficiently and effectively. This requires professional resource planning and a clear allocation of responsibilities. Tasks are assigned to competent project team members or outsourced if necessary. Without clear and comprehensible processes for everyone, clear and realistic resource management is not possible. Process management is therefore also the responsibility of the project leadership. Depending on the complexity of the project, one person may be exclusively responsible for resource management and another person exclusively for process management. These people must work closely together and coordinate continuously.

Project controlling: control of time and resources

During the entire duration of the project, the working hours spent and the resources used (people, machines, software, external services, etc.) must be monitored by way of project controlling. The project leadership should be able to control the project schedule and always have a good overview of the project team's reported efforts and the costs incurred. This requires the project team to be able to record and report times as easily and reliably as possible. At the same time, a cost calculation should enable a simple plan/actual comparison of all important project KPIs.

Risk management: early detection of risks and mitigation

Risks in a project cannot be completely avoided. However, experienced project leadership can anticipate risks in current projects based on lessons learned from past projects and develop an action plan to define these identified risks, determine their impact and mitigate them. These proactive measures must be clearly communicated by the project leadership. Risks can be newly identified during continuous project controlling. Accordingly, it is the task of the project leadership to quickly take countermeasures in consultation with the project team and stakeholders such as customers or suppliers.

Change request management: implementation of necessary measures and compliance with contracts

During the course of the project, it may be necessary to change course and take the necessary measures quickly. The project leadership is then responsible for ensuring that these measures are implemented in compliance with existing contracts and agreements. Depending on their scope, these measures may require accompanying change request management. In practice, this is usually outsourced to someone who is specifically responsible for managing change requests, while the project leadership merely provides communication support to ensure that the project team supports the change in course.

Quality management: achieving customer satisfaction and project results

For quality management, project leadership is in regular contact with the project customer (external customer or internal customer), submits status reports and provides information on the current status of the project. In this way, project leadership ensures that the quality of the project results or partial results meet the customer's requirements and expectations. The project leadership is also responsible for sharing the customer's feedback with the project team in order to achieve the greatest possible transparency in communication. This is the best way to ensure that everyone involved in the project knows what they are working on and why, and why changes may be necessary.

Project documentation and project communication: creating reports

Project reports are created throughout the project to document the project status and made available to all project participants. These reports are usually used in discussions and status meetings as a basis for assessing the project's progress. In this context, it is also the task of project leadership to ensure a transparent flow of information.

Project leadership skills

Project leadership provides many different services and has a wide range of skills. These skills include:

  • Project management skills (optional PM certificate)
  • Organizational talent
  • Strong coordination skills (the "big picture")
  • Communication skills
  • Ability to tolerate mistakes
  • Leadership
  • Assertiveness
  • Decisiveness
  • Forward thinking
  • Proactive action
  • Negotiation skills

The GPM German Association for Project Management e. V. summarizes these competencies as 4 leadership competencies in project management:

  • Professional competence
  • Methodological competence
  • Organizational competence
  • Social competence

All 4 competencies are equally important and characterize good project leadership.

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