A/E Project Leadership
Updated: Apr 19
About the author: Don Archibeque is a Project Executive with Planifi, bringing more than 25 years of experience in construction and A/E (architecture and engineering) Project Management, as well as associated professional managerial services.
The outcome of any architecture or engineering (A/E) project relies upon the leadership skills of the Project Manager. Expert project leadership contributes to successful A/E projects like few other factors. Project-time management, budget and resource allocation, and high-quality results all improve as project leadership skills increase. Expert Project Managers navigate immediate obstacles, while looking ahead to prepare the project team for potential challenges and speed bumps. Elite leaders make informed decisions in a timely fashion and keep projects on course for success.
Some people are natural leaders, but leadership skills can also be developed. The U.S. Military, for example, has been successfully developing leaders for generations. Here are my Top 4 assets for developing successful A/E Project Leaders.
This is absolutely, without question, undoubtedlythe single most important asset in any project manager’s toolkit. It cannot be overstated.
The fact of the matter is A/E project managers spend most of their time communicating with, and facilitating communication between, the project team. Top-notch project leaders can communicate with project team members in a diverse range of roles and varying levels of experience. This includes internal team members like designers and principals, as well as external project partners and clients.
Project leadership requires the ability to clearly articulate vision, goals, and strategies for project execution; as well as, the business values derived from a successful outcome. All of this must be communicated to the audiences mentioned above, in terms relevant and understandable to them.
Effective multi-channel communication is the foundation for successful project delivery.
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Successful A/E project leaders understand and visualize the big picture and share this with the project team. Sharing the project vision helps ensure each team member understands the critical importance of their role and how their individual work contributes to the project’s overall success.
Executing on the project vision also requires effective tactical management. Direct, measure, and coordinate the project team. Effective management for items like tasks, conflicts, project milestones, and progress reports contributes to successful project delivery. Learn when you need to dig into the weeds and when to take a higher level approach based on your team’s skillset.
Leadership is about inspiring a team to achieve common goals. Architecture and Engineering (A/E) projects require a project team because it’s too much for one person to complete alone. Achieving common goals requires a common plan and purpose, as well as delegation skills to ensure work is completed in a timely manner.
Start by identifying and sharing the project’s goals with the team. Establish controls, identify limits, provide support, and stay informed on the team’s progress. Lastly, focus on results rather than obedience to procedure.
It’s a project leader’s responsibility to prioritize tasks and bring out the best in their teams. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and delegate tasks accordingly. A great leader creates an environment that fosters trust and self-belief through the art of delegation.
Give recognition when it’s deserved. A “great job” can go a long way in building team loyalty and inspiring great work in the future.
Creative Problem Solving
Plans go awry, deadlines shift, client expectations change. The only constant in A/E projects is that nothing stays the same. Understand every plan changes and evolves, no matter how much you have researched and prepared or how much experience you have.
The best A/E project leaders encourage out-of-the-box thinking to solve problems presented by a dynamic project environment. Develop a culture where creativity and individual feedback are encouraged and valued.
When team members feel empowered, they’ll have your back when the going gets tough. Be open to new ideas on how to overcome unexpected project issues.
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