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Sound familiar? A project is due to begin and the conversation turns to who should take on which “project role”. And then you’re in the middle of that classic process, moving roles around and approaching the usual suspects. If the project or program is a career maker, then there will be plenty of unofficial talks backstage and the roles will be allocated very early on. In extreme cases, this results in the project’s start date being changed, or even worse, the project beginning without clear clarifications having taken place. So they’re all shouting “cast off!” before the ship or the fleet is really ready. And when new methods are being tried out for the first time on the big stage, e.g. agile project methods, then the chaos is perfect.  

Why? Of course, we first have the issue of power. And who has the power? The defined organization role! As the first level, let’s take the role of “Managing Director”. To keep things simple, let’s say there’s one Managing Director, as any more than 2 or 3 directors can really complicate the issue of power.   

The Managing Director seemingly has to ask themselves one important question: what role (so what role owner) makes the project or the program successful? The Managing Director could ask themselves a completely different very important question: what qualities make the project or the program successful?  

Do both questions lead to the same answer? No! The first question is about a person within the organization. The question of “who” often sets the whole process above into motion.  

The question of qualities, on the other hand, sheds light on a complete answer that generally also requires intense deliberation. After all, I have to be clear about:  

a) What qualities does this project or program need to be successful?   

b) What qualities do I currently have on board and which of my “roles” has what qualities?  

It’s actually a new frame of mind. We people like to think in pigeonholes and roles. Even in meetings with managers, you can tell that hierarchical arrangements and the thinking surrounding the almost political consideration of “project roles” could take priority. The question of qualities, when thoroughly put into practice, has several decisive benefits:   


Projects and programs are brought forward with a much stronger focus on quality from the very beginning. Quality was, is and will always be the vital element. Role-oriented, rapid or even the not uncommon hectic assignment of “project roles” comes with enormous risk.  


The thorough consideration of qualities doesn’t have to result in completely different assignments, but can lead to projects being differently equipped than before.   


Another priceless advantage is that qualitative estimations of resources become a topic of intense discussion among potential managers and employees. Conversations about their strengths and what’s still missing are a welcome and specific occasion for intense dialogue. Especially in relation to the desired transformation, aims and personal contributions. People discuss the significant and necessary support required by project members before kick-off, so the change can actually achieve the desired success.