The 4 pillars of successful project development

The times we live in have made us think about trough projects.  The simple model thee world had to work in 2 decades ago is now gone. Employees in the workplace are now expected to react to a complex situation and be able to deal with different challenges on their own.  Companies now depend more and more on employee’s ability to solve complex issues by using different tools and methods. 

In this world, we more often talk about projects.  Leaders and employees who want to be successful started using the world project as a replacement for the world task.  Everything that has more than 2 steps in it has now been named a project.  In this project-oriented world, people have lost their ability to look over the task lists and solve issues by “implementing projects” in their workday.

Leaders have learned to speak politically correct and use complex language to explain simple things in work and life.  And on top of all, we go through different educational and training courses, just to say at the end that part of our projects “has to rescheduled”.  And then, after the next reschedule we get the next one, just to skip some of the points in our plan as irrelevant, explaining that they have become irrelevant, because of the dynamics in the environment. 

That wastes a lot of time for leaders, their teams, and the persons themselves.  And still, after so many pieces of training, learning paths, and qualifications many of the people, who need to lead projects, struggle with delivering best in class results smoothly and as planned.  If you are not one of them, then you are in the lucky  20% group that has everything in control and can deliver results in a balanced way and as expected,  without being threatened by the changing environment around them.

But if you are in the other 80% group then maybe you are thinking about the next investment you will have to make, just to finish that impossible project.

Before you jump to the next safe boat and invest your time and your or your company money in the next lifesaving course for time management, or priority setting, or something else I’m asking you to go through the steps you have made up to now and reassess them to understand if you have made everything expected after what you can go further with the next life-saving course.

I have learned these 4 pillars of successful project management almost 12 years ago, by leading a transformation project for a big industrial company with more than 6000 employees in more than 180 locations.  Go through the pillars and assess where you are or is it what you do enough to ensure that you can be the successful trough and at the end of the project time estimated.

Start with DIRECTING

You get to the finish of a course and you have nailed it.  LinkedIn Learning is a classic example of this thought. People start something, then they miss some of the parts, but still in the end there is a certificate for completion and the delusion that the person knows it all.  And this style of thinking conveniently moves to the leader.  What the leader must understand and accept that the responsibility does not end with a shiny certificate, or they believe that the person will handle anything.  When starting something new, anyone needs to be directed.  Many people hardly accept that, because of ego-driven thoughts, but that is the painful truth. The leader’s role at the beginning of the project development is to direct employees’ actions.  We learn how to do things first when we are getting the right direction from someone else.  You cannot think of the right way if you do not have the experience.  And the leader’s role is to ensure that experience to be gained and implemented into work.

Slightly move to COACHING

Using directing too much can harm people’s ability to find decisions on their own.  The leader’s role is to assess the project development skills of the employee and know when to let go.  Moving from direction to coaching is hard for both sides.  But this moment gets the person out of his/her zone of comfort and frees some time for the leader.  The role of the leader at the stage relates to freedom.  The leader decides, based on the experience with the employee, how much freedom and independence he/she will offer.  And after offering the freedom, the role of the leader turns from direction giving to guidance planning


Many leaders think that their work is done, ones they have got into the coaching phase. And all of them do not realize how wrong they are.  After given freedom, people first feel the power of independence, they are happy, act with a high level of self-confidence, etc.  But soon they realize that for some of the tasks and project milestones, there is not enough knowledge and experience they can put into practice.  At that moment people start losing ground and turn, like a small child, to the well-known parent-child role model the leader must enter the scene and save them from their reason for failure. The leader who wants others to succeed is there to help them, to support them with presence, power, and authority, and resources.  He/she knows when to show and how to react to ensure that people around him/her will succeed in the work and will achieve the results planned.  This leader offers constant support in every pillar needed, knowing that the investment he/she makes will turn back into a success story.

Put DELEGATION on the table

According to a Harvard Business Review material from 2017 more than   45% of the leaders never feel ready to let go of the control they have implemented at the beginning of the growth process for their teams. The step that separates the grown-up leader from the developing one is the step of delegation.  To allow others to grow, the leader must find the moment where he or she must let go.  People need to see that after the direction given, after the advice and after the resources invested, they now own the leader’s attention and trust.  Showing trust and letting go of things to other people is the key to not only develop them but also develop the leader itself.  Delegation is the final step that gives people freedom and shows recognition of what they have gained as skills, experience, and knowledge from the leader. The practicing delegation also show the leader in a new light, one of the trusting people, able to count on others and believing in their engagement and accountability toward everyday challenges  


Modern leaders have grown so fast that some of them have missed the time to learn how to build a sustainable team, able to achieve results.  If the leader wants to continue achieving results, then he or she must be able to help others execute the projects he or she has executed before by them.  Then and only then the growth process will work for both sides – leader and employees (followers).


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