The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers–Overview

1. Purpose

I am currently taking a course that is preparing me to take the Project Management Professional certification exam. The course is being put on by the Orange County chapter of the Project Management Institute. Our main text for the course is A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge or the PMBOK® Guide for short. Appendix G to that guide lists interpersonal skills that Project Managers should have to help them interact appropriately with the project team and other stakeholders.

Section G.9 of that appendix gives a list of references, and the first book on the list was Stephen R. Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I decided to make a project of blogging about the seven habits that Covey presents with the idea of making them specifically relevant to Project Managers.

2. What is a habit?

The definition of a habit is “one of an imaginary race of half-size people living in holes”—oh, wait, that’s the definition of a “hobbit”, invented by J.R.R. Tolkien. But come to think of it, if you have a BAD habit, then you are half of the size of what you COULD become, and you are living in a hole of your own making.

To break a BAD habit and replace it with an EFFECTIVE habit, you need to have three components which Stephen Covey outlines in his section “The Seven Habits—An Overview”. You need theoretical knowledge of what to do, you need the practical application or skill or how to do it, and the motivation or desire to want to do it.

A project manager is motivated by a desire to see the project succeed. Gaining the knowledge of the 7 Habits and putting those skills to work will make it more likely that future projects will succeed.

3. What are the 7 Habits?

The 7 Habits are arranged according to a paradigm or pattern as follows. The first three habits 1, 2, and 3 deal with the paradigm of dependence where the focus is on you, e.g., you take care of me; and if something goes wrong, I blame it all on you. The next three habits 4, 5, and 6 deal with the paradigm of independence where the focus is on me or I, as in I can do this myself. The 7th habit is the paradigm deals with the paradigm of interdependence where the focus is on we, as in we can combine efforts to achieve success.

Habits 1, 2, and 3 deal with self-mastery, and move a person from dependence to independence. Habits 4, 5, and 6 deal with teamwork, cooperation, and communication, and take you from being independent to being interdependent and working with a team. Habit 7 is the habit of renewal, of constant innovation of both yourself and your team.

You can see why being a better leader first means being good at your craft of project management. Although there are many leadership styles, leadership by feat (or example) rather than by fear is the one that I have appreciated in my managers in the past, and is one that I hope to cultivate in the future as a project manager.

4. What is Highly Effective?

These habits are highly effective because they not only increase production (abbreviated by “P”) in the present, but increase one’s productive capacity (“PC”) or capacity to produce in the future. In the illustration Stephen Covey uses of the familiar Aesop’s fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs, the farmer ends up killing the goose (the production capacity of the eggs) to get at the eggs (the production).  Highly effective habits are the habits that keep on giving; they balance your time between activities which give short-term benefit now and those which create long-term benefits for the future.

The PMBOK® Guide recommends this book for project managers, but I recommend that you learn it not just for yourself in your capacity as a project manager, but also to impart these habits to those on your team, to help them move from dependence on you to being able to work independently, and finally to work with others in an interdependent way as part of a team.    When your team becomes more highly effective, then so do you.

With my next post, I start with Habit #1: Be Proactive.

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