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DrupalCon Dublin 2016: Confessions of a control freak

I recently attended DrupalCon Dublin where I spoke about being a less controlling project manager. Having experienced a shift some years ago to a more agile way of working, it’s a topic I was keen to explore.

In my talk I outlined how implementing a model of centralised control on a project is not a healthy approach. I discussed how it may be one of the main contributing factors that can lead to projects becoming quite challenged, or even failing altogether. 

by jason.coghlan /


While the types of projects we work on can be technically complex, that’s generally a lesser concern than other factors. Commercial pressures and misguided requirements imposed upon projects tend to trip up project teams more often than technical complexity. Combine this with the need to accommodate input from people of varying skillsets and differing personalities, and you have the makings of a very challenging project.

Project managers faced with this somewhat difficult set of circumstances often struggle with how to best deliver their projects. When the odds seem stacked against them, many project managers try to exert control over the factors that might affect their ability to complete a project on time and on budget.

In my talk I explored these issues in more detail by looking at the role of the project manager, what things look like when they are too controlling, and discussed how they need to distribute this control more broadly. I suggested that they need to transition from being a manager to more of a leader.

I also outlined the business structures that influence the behaviour of project managers and how can have a bearing on how they relate to those around them. In particular I suggested moving from a hierarchical model to a much flatter one.

I also looked at the mindset of the project manager and how in turn this heavily influences the mindset of their team. I highlighted how they need to move away from a fixed mindset toward one that is more open to learning and accepting of challenges.

I finished by having a look at the sort of culture that is generated from varying levels of control exerted upon projects. I also suggested that organisations need to improve culture by moving away from seeing projects as a money making machine to recognising them as living organisms that require attention, care and adjustment right throughout their life cycle.

The audio and slides of my DrupalCon Dublin presentation "Confessions of a control freak: A guide to letting go" can be found here