Project Management vs. Project Leadership

I’ve stopped using the moniker “project management” to describe what we do. In my experience, some see those two words and read no further; definition firmly in mind. Naturally, based on their experience and worldview, PM could only mean Agile software development, aggregate planning, change management and the ubiquitous deck of PowerPoint slides at least 50 deep to address any given situation.

Project management is the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria. Wikipedia


Based on my background and experience that definition sounds more than a little harsh and restrictive. (Spoiler alert: any sentence including the words “discipline,” “executing” and “controlling” always raises little red flags with me.) So instead, I use the term “Project Leadership”  to indicate a more academic, more consensus building, more organic process. Brainstorming sessions, brown bag lunches, open project meetings, and asking the “newly converted” to teach classes on the new system (because they best understand why the new system is scary).

In addition to all of the standard fare of PM including budgets, timelines and tasks, of course. We certainly do not discount the imperative of “on schedule, within budget.” We understand that each organization is unique, with its own customs and history, and that any project must recognize and respect that fact. We define “Process Leadership” this way. Process is of critical important but the focus in Project Leadership is on people and guiding them through the process of change.


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