Seven habits of effective IT project leaders

Remember to keep your goals in sight when planning IT projects

Remember to keep your goals in sight when planning IT projects

IT managers face constant pressure to deliver projects faster and to a higher standard, while leading and motivating their teams to produce the goods.

Help may be at hand, albeit from a slightly unusual source: the basic principles outlined in the best-selling self-help book by Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, interpreted here for IT project leaders.

Be proactive

Once the project objective has been determined, take plenty of time to digest what is involved, how you can deliver it, how it fits in with company strategy and the end result. Then, elevate your vision and timelines to the board, ensuring you have their buy-in.

Begin with an end in mind

Have a project strategy. Consider all potential risks to the project and allow for flexibility around time schedules. Make sure you employ a methodology which allows you to predict the impact of delays and faults on other parts of the project, so that you can always be in touch with the status and therefore stay on track.

First things first

Get the project off to a good start by planning and look at the areas that will help save you time and energy later. Determine the processes and methods you will employ for the duration of the project, document your strategy, adopt standards and create a method of time/task management that works for you and your team.

Think win/win

Inevitably there will be conflict at some point. Whether it is a team member, manager, supplier, policy change or scope creep, the point is how to handle this. The natural reaction is to lock horns, but the best way is to try to understand the other person's perspective or policies and achieve a mutually agreeable outcome.

Seek first to understand

Communication is the most important skill. To influence others, you first need to understand where they are coming from.


The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This approach is all about teamwork and requires openness and integrity from all relevant parties - get your teams' buy-in to this. Empower your team to share ideas (no ideas are bad ideas), respect others' opinions and give them the confidence to speak out.

Sharpen the saw

Once the project is completed, take time out to reflect on what worked and what didn't. Consider as objectively as possible how you managed the project and ask those around you for feedback.

I am sure there are other habits you can add as these seven evolve. Try to keep your list short and focused, remember your initial brief and stay on track to deliver requirements.

Sarah Saltzman is technology support manager at Compuware UK and Ireland

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