In 2005, author Andy Crowe lead The Alpha Study, in order to determine which were the habits of those project managers continuously graded “excellent” by direct reports, managers and customers. This book publishes those study results, interleaving much wise advice by Andy Crowe and by some of the “alphas” (there are opinions by “non alphas” as well). It is an easy to read book, thanks to the summary sections closing each chapter and the final chapter with the conclusions.
The study's sample was chosen from the client base of Velociteach (mostly in North America). Interviews were conducted for more than 860 project managers and more than 4,400 stakeholders (customers, senior managers and team members). Surveys weighted 40% the opinion of customers, 30% for senior managers and 30% for team members.
Out of the 860 project managers, alphas were in the 98th percentile, that is, the 2% of them ranked globally higher than the other 98%. The 18 alpha project managers (6 women and 12 men) were based in the USA (except one Canadian).
Alpha Project Managers are those who consistently deliver on time, on cost, on scope, meeting quality standards, and properly managing expectations of stakeholders (customer, team, organization).
The study was mainly aimed to score these 860 project managers in 10 lines of analysis:
- Stakeholder management
- Communication management
- Issue management
- Risk management
- Human Resource management (leadership)
- Baseline control
- Procurement management
- Change management
- Stakeholder's competing interest management
- Quality Management
Here you are some of the outstanding results:
- Enterprise Environmental Factors: Senior management recognition of project management benefits is necessary, but not sufficient to expect alpha project managers forming within the company. Conversely, alphas may influence their environment by providing informative metrics to senior management (about time, cost and customer satisfaction, for instance).
- Continuous improvement commitment: Alphas tend to talk more about what went wrong, rather than the positive achievements of their projects. They are well aware of their limitations thanks to the continuous feedback they request from stakeholders.
- Relationships: Alpha’s success is proportional to the strength of their relationships. They all have solid relational skills.
- Communication: A 91% of project managers ranked their effective communication higher than their collective stakeholders did. However, the 18 alphas proved to be outstanding communicators: They communicate in a regular, predictive and precise way.
- Mentoring: Alphas have the habit of talking with other project managers (be them internal or external mentors) on the problems they are suffering on their projects, processes or tools they are using, lessons learned, areas for improvements, etc. This good habit strengthens their professional network.
- Leadership: Alpha project managers become good leaders after maturing their skills in the long run. They recognize the importance of adapting their leadership style to the situation.
Following there are some scores obtained by alpha project managers, compared with with non alphas. The respondents had to score certain skills of the project manager (over 100: 0 strongly disagree, 100 strongly agree). The first three scores and the eighth ones are subjective (what the project managers think of themselves). The rest come from answers of customers, managers and direct reports:
In conclusion it may be said that alpha project managers have twice as personal satisfaction with their work (67 vs. 32), spend twice as long to planning, and they feel they have much more authority than non alphas. Alpha’s highlights are stakeholder’s satisfaction, effective communication skills, expectation management, commitment to the role, conflict management, domain expertise and the ability to motivate their teams.
Alpha Project Managers
What the top 2% know that everyone else does not
Andy Crowe, 2006
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