May 3, 2023 - 7 min
The Many Angles of the Project Management Triangle
Imagine taking a train from point A to point B, paying a certain price for that ride, and arriving on a precise schedule. Seems like this ticks all checkboxes, and all the requirements are met, so what’s the big deal?
But what happens with the experience, with the quality of the trip for the passengers? Wouldn’t it be better if the train had a bar where the passengers could enjoy a drink or two, a kind waiter willing to listen to their stories, tidy coupes, and clean windows to enjoy the trip and view?
Perhaps even a first-aid kit does not sound like a wild thing to have available. Suddenly, the stakes are a bit higher, it is not enough to just tick the checkboxes, it is about the comfort, trust, and safety the passengers feel while on board the train.
Timeline, scope, and budget are the three obvious angles of the Project Management triangle. There is a big part of Project Management that can’t be quantified or measured straightforwardly as it seems.
It is important to deliver the project within the agreed scope, timeline, and budget, but that’s not all there is. The output needs to be of good quality, and here lies that big part hidden inside the PM triangle that takes most of the Project Managers’ time.
In this context, the output is not only the quality of the end product delivered to the client, it is so much more than that – it is that experience of the train ride. It is how the project team is working together, how they communicate, the relationship with the client, how the client perceives the team, and vice versa, that subjective view each and every project member has and how to combine all of that, not only to deliver the project but to have a content team and client looking forward to working together again.
The 5 P’s of Project Management
There are a lot of different “P”s in Project Management, just a fair warning before you start googling, but below are listed the ones this blog is focused on:
Planning is essential to make the project successful, Project Manager needs to plan the project roadmap, resources, and budget to make sure the goals are realistic and achievable. Project activities, strategy, risk management, and much more is needed to be planned in advance.
All processes need to be taken into account when preparing the project – each department included in the project will have its own processes which need to fit together, not only on the company level but with the client’s processes as well. Project Manager is responsible to establish ways of working that will fit the project needs.
As harsh as it may sound, possessions are the company’s assets and capital – intellectual, economic, marketing, and human capital. In ideal circumstances, companies invest economic capital in human, intellectual, and marketing capital, assuring the maximum value for the company. It is the same in the projects – teams can learn from each other, grow their own intellectual capital and increase their own value.
It’s all about the ka-ching. Good management will always strive for generating long-term profits, and Project Managers will put their efforts into upselling company services, teams, or scope.
Last, but not least, the stars of this blog will have their own chapter, so keep reading about the 5th P.
Books, courses, workshops, everything is handed on a plate, each and every process described, methodologies explained, and all that sounds great in theory. Every Project Manager knows how to prepare the project roadmap, keep track of the budget and remind teammates to log their time at the end of the day. There are many templates, procedures, and checklists that make Project Managers’ repetitive work easier. It’s ok to have a cheat sheet, developers have Stack Overflow, kinda same, right?
The above-mentioned 4 Ps are a piece of cake compared to managing the 5th P – People. That is a whole different story, this is the aspect that really makes or breaks the project and the Project Manager too. Imagine having a difficult client, or a colleague who really does not want to cooperate. All the planning, processes, and procedures will fall through. That’s where the Project Managers’ skills are really forged – mitigating risks related to people. How do you mitigate the effect of someone’s bad day or week? How do you plan characters and personalities into the roadmap?
Every team has its own individual ecosystem, and within it, each and every member is an important part of the team’s success and growth, not only professionally, and intellectually, but personally as well.
Surrounded by Idiots
Before a riot starts, this is just a title of a book written by Swedish communication expert Thomas Erikson. This book describes what we’ve all been through – like nobody else makes sense and we are the only ones who know what we’re talking about. Take a second to think about this – isn’t this how we all feel sometimes? But how many times have we put ourselves in our teammates’ or clients’ shoes before we decided to dismiss them just because they don’t understand our proposal, solution, or question?
A psychologically safe and healthy work environment is something a Project Manager needs to have in mind as well while managing the project. Every small salty remark, eyebrow raised, sigh, or shrug must stay on the Project Managers’ radar. All the differences of all the team members and clients need to be recognized and respected to have a functional and happy team on the project.
To provide the context of the types of people and how to best understand them, below is a short description of each type differentiated by color.
Red – My way or the highway
A person with a red personality may come across as a strong, ambitious, and self-confident person, a natural leader, so to say. Their way is the only way to quickly solve a problem, nobody else can take charge as they can and anybody who disagrees or wants to further discuss is immediately rewarded with a side-eye.
But a Project Manager can’t let that person hijack every meeting, every decision, and every opinion. The points Reds make need to be validated, understood, and acknowledged because they really work hard and can achieve big things – if patiently managed and directed to the goals of the project and team.
Reds need to realize that the whole team can do so much more than one individual by themself, and making them aware of that is not an easy task for a Project Manager.
Yellow – Why so serious?
There is always that jolly, chatty person, the witty one who has the best topics while waiting for the meeting to start. The solutions and answers they offer are so simple, why is everyone asking them all of these questions? The team might not understand how to get to the solution Yellows suggests, but that is not their problem – others need to figure it out themselves – they are off to plan their weekend.
Project Manager’s mission is to keep the Yellows focused and let them talk because they really do have great ideas, but they need to be reminded of and directed back to the topic.
More importantly, Yellows must learn to become a patient listener before insisting that the whole team just accepts their solution, and Project Manager has a big role in making them understand what the team is really saying and how their ideas can be best used in the project.
Blue – Show me the numbers!
“What if…? What happens when…? Can you be more precise? I need exact data to make the decision. I don’t do guesstimates.” – these are the words you might hear from a Blue person. Their analytical skills are on another level and they need time to process and wrap their mind around the issue to be able to provide answers.
The more they are pushed into making what they perceive as haste decisions, the more stressed they become and delay their decision even further.
Project Manager must find that thin line between providing enough information and time for Blues to make decisions or give answers they are comfortable with, but without stalling the rest of the team or project progress in general.
Green – Let’s all just get along
The only way to understand others is by taking a walk in their shoes. Fight is never an option, flight is their action of choice. Routine is the safe zone, let’s not do anything crazy. Greens are the most adaptable and can find a common language with all the above-mentioned colors. Some would mistake their adaptability for passiveness, their aversion to conflicts for weakness, but all the Greens really want is that everyone around them to be happy.
Doesn’t seem like an issue, right? Wrong.
With the team of greens, Project Manager will need to put in extra effort into enabling them to stand for their opinions and decisions instead of throwing in the towel and agreeing with other suggestions just to keep peace in the team. At times, even have the role of their spokesperson because Greens might not be ready for the feedback the team will have on their suggestion.
More a prism, less a triangle
A reasonable thing to expect is that every adult, working person will know how to handle themself and be professional in any business occasion. We are not (yet) robots and we all need to know when our professional characters need to be engaged and when we can let our other traits come into the spotlight.
However, Project Manager is not responsible to handle only themselves, but the whole team and the client too. Our job might not be technical but must be tactical.
It is understandable that we won’t completely match with a single color, we all have characteristics that might be described in another color but that can only help us to have more understanding for others and become better colleagues. Everyone can find a balance that works best for them, maybe a purple or orange color, that perfect mix of what makes our best professional persona.
One of the silent Ps of Project Management is definitely Psychology, every team member will project their color, just like the light does when it hits the prism, and that is what makes a Project Manager’s job so much more than just chasing budgets, timelines, and scopes.
The ultimate achievement is to have all colors in perfect harmony – a happy and productive team delivering top-quality products and experiences to clients.
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