The decision by the British people to leave the European Union raises questions about the future direction of the UK.

What will life be like once we are on our own and will Scotland want to come with us?

How will we and, indeed, the other members of the Union address challenges associated with levels of social, economic and technological change that are unprecedented in the lifetimes of the great majority of citizens?

I wonder whether the same big question, ‘where are you going to?’ might be usefully applied to the project management function in your organisation?

After all, the levels of change with which the European Union is wrestling, from a political perspective, are equally impactful at the level of our businesses or our public sector organisations.

Sarah Coleman and Donnie MacNicol provide a very useful model of Honeycomb Project Leadership Development in their book Project Leadership, which in turn offers some wonderful reflective questions:

  1. Organisational Vision and Roadmap
    Question: What are the leadership capabilities that are critical to support the delivery of the organisation’s strategy? Are you clear on where the organisation is going and the part that project leaders play in achieving this?
  2. Organisational Value and Cultures
    Question: Does the organisation clearly articulate its values to allow the project leader to orientate themselves when making decisions? What is important to the organisation and the manner in which we work?
  3. Projected Business Value
    Question: Are we clear about the value we wish to achieve? Do we have a method in place to assess what has been achieved and the expected return?
  4. Sustained Sponsorship
    Question: Do we have the sponsorship necessary to provide the resources and support the project leaders to perform effectively and develop their capability?
  5. Talent Strategy
    Question: Is there a talent strategy with associated implementation plan, in place and understood by key stakeholders describing how we develop and maintain a capable pool of project leaders?
  6. Recruitment and Induction
    Question: Do we have the necessary processes and information to allow us to onboard the correct type of project leader when we need them?
  7. Career and Development Framework
    Question: Do we have a career framework that clearly defines how a project leader is chosen, developed and progresses from a career perspective? Do we understand what is expected of individuals, how they can develop and be supported, and how progress will be assessed and rewarded?
  8. Educational Interventions
    Question: Do we have a suite of educational interventions that can help support the development of project leaders with any necessary required skills?
  9. Mentoring and Coaching Provision
    Question: Do we have structures and mentors/coaches in place to provide one-to-one or one-to-many support for project leaders?
  10. Communities of Practice
    Question: Is there a supportive network of project leaders and associated roles that come together as a community to support their collective development? This might be within the organisation, or externally through professional bodies or similar.
  11. Talent Programme
    Question: Does the organisation have a talent programme with the primary aim of developing the next generation of project leaders?
  12. Development Professionals
    Question: Do we have the structures and people in place to identify, support and manage the best trainers and facilitators to develop our future project leaders?
  13. Project Execution
    Question: Do we have the processes in place and information available to allow us to identify appropriate project opportunities to develop the individual project leader? An individual’s personal development is influenced primarily by what they can learn from applying new knowledge on programmes and projects. It is critical therefore that individuals work on the right projects at the optimum time to develop their capability. It will not always be possible but with careful planning this can slowly be optimised for the whole community.
  14. Performance Framework
    Question: What is the performance framework which will provide the project leader with the insights necessary to support their development? Remember, individual performance should be assessed against a broad set of factors, which includes but is not exclusive to project performance.
  15. Alignment with Academia
    Question: What are the relationships we need with academic bodies to provide knowledge, insights and new thinking to support our project leaders. And are these in place?
  16. Alignment to Human Resources
    Question: In some organisations the HR function sponsors and controls all development programmes; in others, it is left to the business units and HR focuses on compensation, incentives, promotion and succession planning. Do we have the support of HR to maximise the effectiveness of our project leaders?
  17. Functional Alignment
    Question: How aligned are the multiple functions within the organisation, for example, finance, marketing and internal communications, to support project leaders to deliver success?
  18. Professional Body Alignment
    Question: Building relationships with the different areas within professional bodies (such as knowledge sharing, events, communities) can maximise the value the organisation and project leaders can gain. The organisation’s talent strategy may be aligned to different professional bodies. Do we have relationships in place with professional bodies that can provide access to knowledge, qualifications and accreditation to support our project leaders?
  19. Management and Coordination
    Question: Do we have the governance and planning in place to effectively manage the multiple elements identified above to deliver the support and development opportunities to our project leaders?

Adapted from Project Leadership, 2nd edition, 9781472452801, Sarah Coleman and Donnie MacNicol, Routledge 2015.

Now go back to the original question: ‘Do you know where you are going to?’

I hope that these questions will enable you to answer ‘yes’ and to describe the direction of your organisation and the project function within it in simple, coherent terms.

Jonathan Norman is Publisher at Taylor and Francis and Editorial Lead for the project management community of practice platform GPM First which contains a full-text version, fully searchable version of Project Leadership along with over 100 other leading project management titles.

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