Finding The Right Trusted Expert For Your Project

Sep 21, 2020

Covid 19 has thrust trusted experts right back into the news. Six months ago names like Ashley Bloomfield, Sir David Skegg and Professor Michael Baker were largely anonymous. Today they’re public figures, with our futures in their hands.

Globally, we’ve seen countries tackle Covid 19 in different ways. And it’s striking how divergent the outcomes have been… while we’ve become the envy of the world, a few have failed miserably –  the USA and UK come to mind.

There’s one obvious explanation. For the last few years the USA and UK have waged open war on “trusted experts”. Think Brexit, or the 2016 US election. Trusted experts have faded from public consciousness, replaced by the magical thinking of Donald Trump wishing Covid away, or Boris Johnson going on holiday while the virus exploded in the UK.

All very interesting… I hear you say. What’s this got to do with project management? Well, it turns out, everything.

Finding the right expert for your project

The common theme here is trusted experts. In NZ we’re listening to them, following their advice and emerging relatively unscathed. Elsewhere? Perhaps not so much. So when it comes to projects, where we know people make the difference, and a trusted expert can help you win, it’s clear what you should do.

Picking the right expert means two things:

  1. Is your PM a good fit?
  2. Are they the right Type for your project?

Does your PM fit?

Here are a couple of examples. If your project is smaller, siloed, and less reliant on a wide web of stakeholders, pick someone a little more introverted. These PMs get into the details of your project, are comfortable working in isolation, and operate without the need for granular oversight.

A sprawling, complex project with multiple streams and difficult vendors or stakeholders, has different needs. A confident, action oriented leader is required. Motivating and taking a team on a journey requires confidence, especially if a project’s starting to stagger. Remember that two out of three will fail – usually with the sponsor having lost faith in the team. If this sounds like your project, only an experienced and confident PM can turn it around. 

Resilience and the Type 2 PM

Of course, fit’s not the only thing. Even confident and experienced PMs can hit a project wall. Complex projects are hard, really hard, and can sometimes take their PM down with them. That’s when resilience, the second type of trusted expertise, comes to the fore.

If a PM loses control, it’s contagious. The set-backs come fast, the bounce backs aren’t happening, and the PM starts to flap. The team senses it, losing direction – next thing the project’s underwater, with no sign of exit. Resilience is required here, an understanding of the big picture and a focus on what’s really important. Temporary set-backs are very different to the end goal, and a resilient PM understands this. Complex projects are a series of battles, some you’ll win and some may need a reappraisal from you. 

And set-backs, especially at key times in a project, can come in clusters – the last thing you need is a shell shocked PM, paralysed with fear. A resilient PM will deal with these set-backs. At Luminate we call them Type 2 – a PM who can control their emotions and manage issues in a dispassionate, rational, and impartial way. It’s a Type 2 PM who can bring complex and uncertain projects back from the edge, and deliver the credibility the sponsor and project team need.