Leadership: The Mission Is Vision

As a project manager, you're a leader by default. And as a leader, your job is to inspire your team to achieve a shared vision. That means you create an "inspiring vision" of the future and then build the expectation that the vision is achievable.

An "inspiring vision" is not simply finishing your project, either. A great example of this was one put forth by London's Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) responsible for building the facilities for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The ODA set a much-publicized "zero harm" goal.

The London Olympics construction program completed the work on budget, ahead of schedule, to a high standard — and with no fatalities. Not only that, but the overall accident frequency came in at 58 percent below the UK construction industry average. This is a remarkable achievement, given that a total of 40,000 people worked on the projects.

After creating the inspiring vision, make sure your team can commit to and communicate it effectively. To do so, each member must:

  1. Understand it — it has to be realistic to them.
  2. Know their teammates and other stakeholders will like and commit to it.
  3. Get excited about it.
  4. Believe they can make it happen.
Framing your vision in the right context is a big part of communicating it effectively to your team and to all that touch the project. The London Olympics construction program knew that "on time and on budget" was not an exciting rallying cry to many people. (Project managers notwithstanding.) So it framed the project around the idea of looking after workmates, which was an easier concept for securing widespread buy-in. 

Looking after co-workers meant achieving a safer worksite. And for that, construction had to be well-planned, well-managed, clean and tidy — coincidentally, all the same facets for achieving a high-quality, on-time, on-budget outcome.

After framing your vision, preferably working with team members so they own it, the hard work starts. The vision needs to be communicated and reinforced at all times. No compromises. As soon as you stop living the vision, it will fade. 

In London, for instance, safety was always the first agenda item at meetings. It was continuously policed, communicated and enforced. But more importantly, safety success was celebrated. Major milestones — such as 1,000,000 hours worked with no accidents — were big occasions. There were also smaller, more personal celebrations of people contributing to the vision. 

Enforcing and celebrating the vision created a culture focused on safety and achieving the vision of an accident-free project daily.

What is the inspiring vision you can create for your team to help achieve your project objectives? How will you communicate and maintain that vision?

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