One of the concepts which can help you excel as a project manager – and leader – more rapidly than anything else is the notion of consistently challenging the status quo of what you are delivering and how you are delivering it. Not only will it help you optimize the project you are currently running, it will also help you improve your client’s business processes as well as the organization or department you work for.

When you challenge the status quo, it means that you identify new and better ways of doing things on behalf of your project, your client, and your organization. It also means that you add value, and that’s the very basis for being successful. In order for you to step up and become a project management leader, you must add more value than anyone else. It is not enough to just turn up and do a good job. We have to stay competitive and consistently look for new and better ways of doing business, saving money and adding benefits to our customers.

Sussane Madsen: How to Become a Project Leader by Challenging the Status Quo - Guest Post

Challenging the status quo is a mindset shift which you can bring about by being conscious of how things operate today – and by proposing a new and better way of doing things. The steps involved are outlined below:

1. See things the way they are

The first step is to have a realistic and accurate understanding of today’s state of play. What are the project processes, technology and company procedures you currently make use of? What are the business processes that your client follows on a daily basis and what are the expected benefits from your project? These aspects represent the status quo. It is how you normally go about things and how you usually execute projects. It is also how your client normally does business.

2. See things better than they are

The second step is to have the vision and ability to see a better future than what currently is. Be inspired and imagine what the future would look like if you made use of more simplified processes, new and better technology, were able to build a highly motivated team, had better relationships with your customers, and if you were able to improve the way they do business. Look at the end game; that of adding value to your client in a faster, cheaper and better way. Then identify the gaps between the end game and the current state. These gaps represent opportunities for improvements and opportunities for you to step up and lead!

3. Implement your view of the future

When you have a clear vision of how your project and team can add more value and work more effectively, the third step is to believe in your vision and make it happen. Be the champion and seek to motivate others to help you implement the vision. Paint an appealing picture of the future and make people understand what’s in it for them. They will be more supportive and willing to follow when you demonstrate how they fit into the vision and what the benefits are to their career and reputation of delivering more value in a faster, cheaper and better way.

One of the best ways of bringing about this mindset shift is to regularly take a step back and ask a set of insightful questions. Set time aside in your diary and allow yourself to get away from your desk for 30 to 60 minutes. Go to a place where you feel inspired and where you will not be disturbed. Take a “balcony” view of the project and observe it from afar. What is working well and what is not working so well? How could you run it in a more successful and effective manner? How could you help your client get more benefit and maybe even save money in the process? How could you improve customer satisfaction and team motivation?

Another good way of challenging the status quo is to ask open questions of your team members whenever you get the chance. Ask them how they feel you can work more effectively as a team, how you can improve quality and what they think the biggest unaddressed risks are. This approach is excellent for engaging and empowering people and for changing the mindset of the entire team.

When you consistently challenge the status quo, you have the potential of unlimited success, because you add an unlimited amount of value. You also have the potential to demonstrate your leadership skills, because you make things happen based on your vision. Thought leaders are not satisfied with following others or doing a “good” job. They are committed to excellence and they see things better than they are. They make their own models of how things should be and are brave enough to implement these models.

Republished with permission from Susanne Madsen.

Susanne Madsen

About Susanne Madsen:
Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognized project leadership coach, trainer, and consultant. She is the author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership. Susanne’s belief is that project management success is as much about leading people as it is about managing tasks, events, and processes. She is a firm believer and practitioner of the GTD (Get Things Done) approach and enjoys helping people formulate and achieve their goals. For more about Susanne, please visit

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