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The Entrepreneur Project Manager

sunilJan22Every project manager during their career, short or long, has worked with or heard of some PM who was the absolute best. The one who everyone wanted on their team and the one who always managed to deliver the desired results.

Now every Project Manager knows that being able to scope, budget and schedule projects and being able to guide them through their lifecycles are in the average day’s work, the bare minimum any PM should be capable of.

So, what are the qualities of a super PM? What does it take to move beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary?

I believe it is a mindset — more specifically, the entrepreneurial mindset.

The best PMs have learned through their experiences that to exceed rather than just succeed one needs to think beyond the basics of project management. It is not enough just to know about scheduling, budgeting, subject matter, etc., and somehow push the project through its phases towards its final milestone. Extraordinary PMs have realized that to be really successful, one has to be able to look beyond the mundane and rise beyond the ordinary.

They have adopted the entrepreneurial mindset.

The entrepreneurial mindset

A couple of definitions to consider:

  1. Entrepreneur is a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.
  2. Mindset is a mental attitude or inclination.

According to Joseph Schumpeter “the capabilities of innovating, introducing new technologies, increasing efficiency and productivity, or generating new products or services, are characteristic qualities of entrepreneurs,” while Robert B. Reich considers “leadership, management ability, and team-building to be essential qualities of an entrepreneur.”

In a recent article on entrepreneurship Dan Schawbel stated, “A major shift is taking place, replacing the typical definition of an entrepreneur — ‘someone who starts a company’ — with a newer definition, one based on the innate mindset of a person who sees opportunities and pursues them.”

And, the Financial Times said, “The entrepreneurial mindset as refers to a specific state of mind which orientates human conduct towards entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. Individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets are often drawn to opportunities, innovation and new value creation. Characteristics include the ability to take calculated risks and accept the realities of change and uncertainty.”

So, an entrepreneur is a take-charge, self-directed person who rounds up important resources and services to deliver a product or service to consumers that is of value. Now while this can describe any manager, there is one very critical difference between an entrepreneur and a manager. While most managers are very capable and dedicated to their work, only an entrepreneur manager will, consciously and subconsciously, act as if they have personal equity in the initiative’s success or failure. It is not “just a job” for them. Entrepreneurs know that they cannot fail and that their failure will lead to the failure of the entire business or initiative.

Similarly, for each and every project an entrepreneur PM will take extra initiative and consideration to ensure its success. This mindset of “personal ownership” is what sets this type of a PM apart from others. This mindset also drives the PM’s efforts towards setting higher standards for performance and achievement. Entrepreneur PMs realize the importance and centrality of their team’s effort and work to deliver great results. They know that while they themselves cannot perform all the tasks and roles on a project, they are ultimately responsible for its success or failure and the impact on its stakeholders.

No project on its own is perfect or the best. There are always risks. It is not difficult to assign blame for failure, and one can find innumerable reasons for it, such as blaming the SMEs, sponsor, budget, the team, etc.

But for the entrepreneur PM, success is the only way to go forward. They are personally invested in its success. Hence, they are never reactive and don’t accept excuses. They proactively approach each and every project and will demolish every barrier erected in their path. They will do whatever effort is required to find the solutions that will guide the team and project towards success. Their sense of project ownership is always high; innovation is their way of life; their appetite for risk is high; they are always striving for the betterment of the project.

A project is always undertaken to create something new or unique, even if it is a small update. The new product or service cannot be initiated by machines. Not yet. Hence human resources are critical for a project’s success. Entrepreneur PMs know that.

Some common characteristics of entrepreneur PMs:

  • Getting the “big picture”
  • Leader and motivator
  • Team builder
  • Patient (not easily rattled)
  • Great listener and communicator
  • Strategic and organized
  • Proactive
  • Optimistic
  • Technically sound
  • Effective task delegator

Entrepreneur PMs are not necessarily the most technically qualified. In fact, my observation is that often the most technically qualified and experienced people don’t make the best PMs. Technical competence is important to some extent for project management but not critical. Skills such as being proactive, understanding people and their goals, taking ownership, being able to “get the big picture”, etc. are more crucial for a project’s success.

Entrepreneur PMs are driven professionals who strive to excel, and the thought of being able to interact with great minds daily, guiding them and extracting ideas, excites them. An entrepreneur PM’s mindset is analogous to that of a CEO in that they are always striving to deliver high value to all their stakeholders.

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