Emergence of the Project Leader Role

From project manager to project leader, may sound crazy for at least some of my fellow professionals from the I.T industry where a Project manager role is considered as hierarchically above the project leader role. One first become a project leader, before becoming a project manager. The paradox is that Leaders are always considered at a higher level than managers in management literature and till now there is no project leader role in any other domain except I.T. Even though I got confused about this conflict between I.T management and the mainstream management, I kept quiet because I thought the Industry must be right over an individual.

Fortunately, while performing research to understand the global trends in EPC project management to design a course for Wrench Academy, it became clearer of the emergence of the role ‘Project Leader’.

Top 7 emerging global project management trends

  1. The project’s success criteria will be determined by ROI, ROCE than the traditional triple constraints of Time, Cost and scope.
  2. Projects will be executed through distributed teams, collaborating with each other over cloud based platforms performing concurrent development.
  3. Project planning will be decentralized and will rely on tailoring best practices from all streams of project management (traditional, agile) for the benefit of the project, than relying on any one method.
  4. Project requirements will be evolving and flexible
  5. Work breakdown structures will evolve bottom up
  6. Assumptions and constraints will be re-validated and revised throughout the project
  7. Activity workflows will become parallel

Out of these, the biggest paradigm shift is the shift in project’s success criteria from delivering on time to the return on investment (ROI) or the return on capital deployed (ROCE).

This change in project management canvas, called as Project Management 2.0 , and now followed by renowned industry bodies like Construction Industry Institute (CII) and Project Management Institute calls for enhancement of project manager’s skill set from tactical to strategic or it justifies the emergence of the ‘Project Leader’ role across all significant projects, whose primary role will be enhancing value to the owner by focusing on benefits management.

When the teams are no more collocated, motivational aspects of the team which drives them to accomplish the project goals are very important. While managing ROI, principle centered decision making is important to create an open and trustworthy environment to facilitate open communication and collaboration across all stakeholders. That is the reason why so much emphasis is given to principle driven project management over process driven project management. Without trust, there is no collaboration across distributed teams.

Carrying stones Vs Building the Cathedral

One day in 1671, Christopher Wren observed three bricklayers on a scaffold, one crouched, one half-standing and one standing tall, working very hard and fast. To the first bricklayer, Christopher Wren asked the question, “What are you doing?” to which the bricklayer replied, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.” The second bricklayer, responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.” But the third brick layer, the most productive of the three and the future leader of the group, when asked the question, “What are you doing?” replied with a gleam in his eye, “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral to The Almighty.”

Delivering value by continuously portraying the larger picture of the project and it’s benefits to every stakeholder in a trustworthy manner consistently is the new emerging role of true Project Leaders. In other words, project Leaders are the new CEO of the projects.

Application of market research for projects

Projects deliver unique product or services. How successful the product of the project after deployment determines the success and failure of the project from the owner’s perspective. Conducting a detailed market research will help to validate the assumptions made while justifying the investment into the product idea.

Market research is an organized effort to gather information about target markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy. The term is commonly interchanged with marketing research; however, expert practitioners may wish to draw a distinction, in that marketing research is concerned specifically about marketing processes, while market research is concerned specifically with markets.

Market research is one of the main factors used in maintaining competitiveness over competitors. Market research provides important information which helps to identify and analyze the needs of the market, the market size and the competition. Market-research techniques encompass both qualitative techniques such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and ethnography, as well as quantitative techniques such as customer surveys, and analysis of secondary data.

Market research, which includes social and opinion research, is the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organizations using statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social sciences to gain insight or support decision making.

Examples of factors that can be analysed using market research are;

  • Market Information
  • Market segmentation
  • Market trends
  • SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)
  • PEST analysis (Political, Economical, Social, Technology related external factors

Reference Wikipedia

PM Book

PM Tools

Designing effective check sheets

The defining characteristic of a check sheet is that data are recorded by making marks (“checks”) on it. A typical check sheet is divided into regions, and marks made in different regions have different significance. Data are read by observing the location and number of marks on the sheet.

Check sheets typically employ a heading that answers the Five Ws:

  • Who filled out the check sheet
  • What was collected (what each check represents, an identifying batch or lot number)
  • Where the collection took place (facility, room, apparatus)
  • When the collection took place (hour, shift, day of the week)
  • Why the data were collected.

Check sheets are used to;

  • To quantify defects by type
  • To quantify defects by location
  • To quantify defects by cause (machine, worker)
  • To keep track of the completion of steps in a multi-step procedure

There is a cost associated with designing check sheets, training people to collect and analyse data, collecting data, collating data, analyzing data and then taking corrective / preventive actions. All these costs are part of the price of conformance and must be factored into project cost estimates.

Sample check sheet

PM Tools



Check sheet – Wiki

How to conduct brainstorming?

The moment one is a manager it becomes mandatory to collaborate with others and play on the strengths of others. Brainstorming is a great tool which will help to collaborate intellectually. It is possible to brainstorm even remotely using collaboration tools like skype, teams, zoom, gtalk, gotomeeting, gtalk etc as long as we follow the ground rules of brainstorming.

The objective of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible from the participants of the brainstorming session. The following points will help you to conduct brainstorming sessions effectively. Once again I will use the PDCA framework to explain this.

before doing it. Usually there will be a moderator for brainstorming who ensures that the basic brainstorming gudelines are followed.

Plan brainstorming

  • Identify the topic for brainstorming.
  • Choose the venue with sufficient space and a big enough white board to capture details.
  • Send invitations along with the topic, start time and end time.
  • Identify the moderator

Do brainstorming

  • The moderator must explain the ground rules of brainstorming to the participants first.
  • All participants must get equal opportunity to contribute
  • When someone is expressing their ideas, no one is allowed to validate them.
  • Participants can build on others ideas.
  • All ideas are captured by the moderator or anyone designated by the moderator.

Check the data captured

  • Group the ideas based on their complementary nature.
  • Eliminate redundant ones


  • Prioritise
  • Take action

Effective bench marking steps

When I was working for a product company well known for it’s product quality and testing practices, another product company wanted to benchmark their testing practices with our company. That was my first tryst with Benchmarking.

Do you want to learn and improve fast? It could be your product, project, process or even you as a professional. The best approach would be to bench mark with a better product, project, process or professional with an intent to learn and improve faster. This is a smarter approach than trying to re-invent the wheel by yourself, which is both expensive and time consuming.

Project benchmarking is a process which helps to compare the estimated cost, scope, schedule and project cashflows with past similar projects. It is also possible to benchmark a project against industry standards and frameworks. For example, one can always benchmark a project’s plan with its compliance against leading project management frameworks like PMBOK by the Project Management Institute (USA), Total Cost Management Framework (TCM) by AACE, Projects in Controlled Environment (PRINCE2) by AXELOS, Standards from Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) etc.

The output of bench marking will provide the gaps which needs special focus. Bench marking is commonly used in Public projects as the government has access to large amounts of data of similar project.

How to perform effective bench marking?

1. Plan Bench marking

  • Define the purpose and scope of the bench marking exercise
  • Form the team
  • Identify the source and target to bench mark
  • Define the benchmark study report template
  • Define the time line

2. Do Bench marking

  • Collect data
  • Validate data
  • Develop bench mark report

3. Check the bench mark report

  • Validate the accuracy benchmark report

4. Act on the bench mark report finding

  • Identify the corrective actions
  • Form the corrective action teams
  • Plan the corrective action projects
  • Execute the corrective action projects
  • Evaluate the results
  • Institutionalize

Impact of Enterprise Environmental Factors on Projects

Will you start a new project in a country which is badly affected by a pandemic?. Will you not check for the medical facilities available before investing?.

These days large project endeavors looks similar to enterprises and PM plays the CEO role within projects. Large projects are getting more and more complex and project failures will eat into the profitability of the enterprise, if not wiping out the enterprise. Understanding the project enterprise’s environmental factors upfront will help to factor them into Project plans.

Here are some examples;

  • Labour laws
  • Bank interest rates
  • National holidays
  • Manpower costs
  • Political stability
  • Climatic conditions
  • Probability for extreme climatic conditions
  • Local culture
  • Government rules
  • Transport facilities
  • Geographical conditions
  • Trade unions
  • Manpower availability
  • Corruption levels
  • Historical data
  • Legal systems
  • Health care systems
  • Health and safety norms
  • Payment terms
  • Payroll norms
  • Taxation etc

These are just examples. A good understanding of the Enterprise Environmental Factors (EEF) will help to estimate, plan, execute, monitor, control and close projects successfully. EEF impacts almost every aspect of the project. An advance knowledge of EEF will help the project stakeholders steer the project successfully.

Direct and manage project work

Reference PMBOK V6 page 90

Key concepts / documents

  • Change log
  • Lessons learned register
  • Milestone list
  • Project communications
  • Project schedule
  • Requirements traceability matrix
  • Risk register
  • Risk report
  • Approved change requests
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Project management information system (PMIS)
  • Deliverables
  • Work performance data
  • Issue log
  • Change requests
  • Project management plan updates
  • Activity list
  • Assumptions log
  • Lessons learned register
  • Requirements documentation
  • Stakeholder register
  • Organizational process assets updates