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Seven Habits of True Project Leaders: Habit #7

This series highlights the 7 habits that are deeply ingrained in project leaders who are capable of consistently delivering project success. Our last post discussed the importance of being a stark realist.

Habit #7: Scope Changes Are Second Nature

As the old saying goes: How does a project fall a year behind schedule? One day at a time! If you ran a post-mortem for your failed projects, the most common cause of death would likely be scope creep.

It is human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The ideal project manager is a little twisted because they seek pain as early as they can find it. In the case of risk management, they even seek out pain before it even exists! This way, they can change the plan immediately and always be aiming for the right moving target.

The natural outcome of this is that project managers do not let schedule and budget changes be optional.

Nurture: From a macro standpoint, we can have standards and procedures, we can have the discipline to follow the procedures, but at a certain point, you need to have the courage to put your foot down and stand up to play all the different pieces up, down, and sideways. If I’m the captain and I’m going down with the ship and the ship is the project, do you know what your recourses are? If you ask dad and he says “no,” can you ask mom? Is there a court of appeals? Are you prepared to fight city hall? In other words, you need to know the procedures well enough to follow them and you need to know them well enough to exploit them when failure is not an option.

These are the habits that are innate to true project leaders, and what separates them from merely qualified managers. The qualities above are not easy to find in a resume or even in a basic interview process.

Click here to read the first post that introduces the topic and discusses the project charter.