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Kiron Bondale on challenging projects

There are many aspects of a project that make it challenging, this week we chat with a project management blogger about the importance of embracing a challenge.

Project management blogger, Kiron Bondale

As well as blogging on ProjectTimes, Kiron Bondale publishes his own blog, and provides project portfolio management and project management consulting services to over a hundred clients across multiple industries.

How did you become a project manager?

“Like many project managers, I didn’t start my career expecting to be one.

“My initial focus was on technology, and I spent many years developing my skills as a system administrator and later as a technology consultant.

“However, after working for almost a decade I realised that I was getting more gratification from helping a diverse group of people deliver something unique than just being a techie.

“As a result, I decided to refocus my energies on developing the necessary foundational knowledge and on gaining the required experience to become a project manager.”

If you offer your 16 year old self any advice, what would it be?

“Simple – focus on people, then process and finally technology – in that order.

“Too often, the order is reversed and issues arise.”

How would you recommend a project manager should continuously learn and develop?

“Take on new and challenging projects – so called stretch opportunities.

“This can be done in multiple dimensions – you can get outside your comfort zone by managing a project which is outside of your domain or which is larger or more complex than any you have managed before, but you can also do so by taking over a project which is in trouble.

“Another way to challenge oneself is to take on projects which have a very different set of priorities or drivers than those which you have managed before.

“For example, if you have only ever managed projects in for profit organisations where the primary driver is usually financial, managing projects in not for profit situations where the expected outcomes may be less financially driven can be a great stretch opportunity to develop resilience and flexibility.”

Do you work to a particular project management methodology?

“Most of the methodologies utilised with the companies I’ve worked for have been aligned with PMI’s PMBOK.

“Methodologies provide the framework but it is up to the practitioner to adapt them appropriately to fit the needs of a given project, the organisation and the team.”

In what key areas do projects often go wrong?

“Lack of organisational support for project management, poor stakeholder management – especially expectations, low quality requirements management, unpredictable resource availability and ineffective governance are all common pain points.

“Unfortunately, none of these are new, and it’s a shame that lessons haven’t been learned from past failures.”

What areas do you particularly focus on when approaching a new project?

“Understanding what the expected business outcomes are, gaining alignment on those from my sponsor, key stakeholders and team members and then forging good relationships to be able to achieve those outcomes.”

What is the most challenging project you’ve worked on?

“The most challenging project I managed to date was the upgrade of a critical system.

“The upgrade was essential to maintaining vendor support but more important, to meet a critical regulatory compliance deadline.

“I was asked to take over the project from a peer who had run into challenges getting alignment from the team, the sponsor and other key stakeholders.

“When I came on board, I was confronted with a situation where each group was at each other’s throats.

“My first priority was to gain alignment towards a shared goal but it would be challenging to do that without establishing a level of trust and credibility with the different stakeholders.

“By active listening, demonstrating empathy for their individual concerns and by acting with fairness, transparency, and demonstrating a willingness to roll my sleeves up and pitch in wherever I could add value, I was able to gain that trust.

“Once that was done, they were willing to let me steer them in the right direction and we were able to get the project completed successfully by meeting the primary priority of on time, quality migration.”

Are you a friend or leader in your approach to a project team?

“You can be both – both friends and leaders are most effective when they are fair, hold themselves and their friends/followers accountable, and are decisive with praise and, when required, constructive feedback.

“Being fair does not mean always being nice.”