Matching Project Manager Leadership with a Digital Transformation Project

Matching PM Leadership with a Digital Transformation Project
It’s the first game of the 1988 World Series between the L.A. Dodgers and Oakland Athletics. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs, the count on Kirk Gibson is three balls, two strikes. The Dodgers are down by one run, a Gibson base hit ties the game. Ace closer Dennis Eckersley throws a back door slider – and Gibson nails a game winning walk-off home run. Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda called Gibson into the game from the clubhouse. Gibson wasn’t expected to play.

PM Competencies in the Digitalization Landscape
Lasorda’s choice to bat Gibson is the stuff of baseball legend. What everyone can learn from Lasorda’s choice is that knowing the situation and knowing your team can make all the difference.
These lessons apply when considering digital transformation, especially regarding questions about the actual execution of the project. Selecting the best project manager (PM) for the digital initiative can be one of the hardest choices. Luckily, there is research and a few fundamental steps that can guide this decision.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) commissioned a study examining 15 core PM competencies grouped into three categories. The purpose of the research was to help match PM leadership styles to different types of projects.

I. Intellectual PM Competencies (IQ)

1. Critical analysis and judgment
2. Vision and imagination
3. Strategic perspective

II. Managerial PM Competencies (MQ)

4. Engaging communications
5. Managing resources
6. Empowering
7. Developing
8. Achieving

III. Emotional PM Competencies (EQ)

9. Self-awareness
10. Emotional Resilience
11. Motivation
12. Sensitivity
13. Influence
14. Intuitiveness
15. Conscientiousness

The researchers considered the impact and influence of these competencies across a broad project management landscape: engineering projects, organizational change projects, IT projects, low complexity vs. high complexity and other factors. All digital transformation initiatives are part technical, part organizational, and no two projects will be alike. That can make finding which team member is the right fit to lead the project difficult.

Runners on First and Third. No Outs. Down by Two.
Baseball managers platoon players based on the game’s situation. Clinging to a tight two-run lead means it’s time to get the best fielders and arms out there. When down by four runs, get ready to pinch hit and pinch run. Every organization will need to think about their situation, and consider platooning the right PM for digitalization. Think about it like this:

  • PMs are similar to baseball players with special skills.
  • A digital project is like the game, with particular impacts throughout one the business, employees and customers.

There are guideposts to help with choosing the right lineup. Back to the research and numbers – Researchers aligned and scored project manager profiles and competencies with high-performing engineering, IT and organization change projects. The table below summarizes the results:

Then, PM profiles and competencies were aligned with a project’s complexity:

So, This Means What?
Selecting the right PM relies on the assessment of the organization and the project. The diagram below offers a summary of PM competencies to consider in two different digital deployments.

It’s a Seven Game Series
Baseball managers track countless immediate factors: players at bat, players on deck, runners who can steal, the pitcher’s pitch count in the 5th inning. They also manage the long-run: which bullpen guy to rest tonight, the six-hour flight home with a 4 pm game tomorrow. The analogy to digital transformation is that the same amount of due diligence and decision-making placed on a project’s tools, business processes and costs should also apply to the who runs it. Take some time to pick the right team.

J. Rodney Turner, P. R. (2006). Choosing Appropriate Project Managers. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.


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