Project management & Agile practices

How to succeed with your project.

The complexity of projects is increasing, and it requires better preparation, more precise communication, and support from management. That’s easier said than done. Therefore, we asked Vice President Henrik Bjerregaard Nielsen to delve into Mannaz’s Project Manager Survey and provide his insights on dos and don’ts.

A good start is half the work.

Henrik Bjerregaard Nielsen, who has worked in project management for over 30 years, says:

“It disappoints me to read about the large cost overruns and delays in projects that occur repeatedly. In most cases, these could have been avoided. There is still a need to improve the analysis of the project’s scope, create appropriate plans, and, most importantly, continuously follow up so that necessary changes are managed correctly and timely.”

Fortunately, there are several useful tools for project management. One of the most recognised methods is the Earned Value Management (EVM) method, which provides an early indication of whether a project is heading into trouble.

However, according to the 2023 Project Manager Survey, this method is not widely used. Only 5% of surveyed project managers use it every time, 12% use it occasionally, and a whopping 61% never use the Earned Value Management method. Henrik considers this problematic:

“It’s obvious that you can’t avoid problems you either don’t know about, discover too late, or perhaps underestimate the importance of. Therefore, project managers need to do even better groundwork before projects are initiated – and management needs to support this groundwork. Good preparation pays off big time in both the project’s ongoing progress and ultimate success.”

Projects with large scope, multiple stakeholders, frequent uncontrollable changes, and long duration unfortunately often encounter problems. Therefore, simplicity and speed are valuable virtues in projects. Nevertheless, we observe a trend where the complexity and scale of projects are increasing, making them challenging to oversee.

Three pieces of advice for safely managing complex projects:

Acknowledge the Premise: Incorporate this understanding into your planning. In other words, allocate time for the unforeseen. Pause, assess, and adjust. Maintain ongoing communication with the client and create a new plan when changes occur.


Break Down the Project: Divide the project into smaller chunks, enabling more agile work.


Seek Experienced Guidance: Involve seasoned professionals during project initiation and use tools that make sense. Additionally, recognise that larger, complex projects carry higher risks in terms of management and leadership.

Clear Communication Enhances Project Success Rate.

Communication is becoming an increasingly crucial aspect of a project manager’s work. Both external and internal communication should be prioritised, as the overall success of the project depends on it. This is because a project manager who masters communication is more likely to facilitate progress, secure resources, gain management support, and ensure customer satisfaction.

Project managers need to communicate progress, maintain control over their reporting, inform upper management layers, and motivate project participants. It requires much more than just Outlook skills. Effective project managers stay updated, engage, and clarify – not only frequently but also promptly and through the most suitable channels.

Now, how do you explain to the steering committee that the budget has been exceeded and the timeline is slipping, all while maintaining faith in the project’s validity within your project team?

According to Henrik, the answer lies in tailoring the message and focusing on what each recipient can influence and needs to know.

“As a project manager, you should abandon the broad strokes and communication of uncertainties, and instead focus on specific messages tailored to each recipient. By doing so, you ensure that the recipient understands the message and can act upon it.”

This type of communication simultaneously fosters openness and transparency within and around the project, benefiting the project manager. Conversely, closed behaviour leads to concerns and myths, which can hinder the project.

Three compelling reasons to strengthen a project manager’s communication skills:

Motivation and Support from the Team: Ensuring team motivation, alignment with goals, and understanding overall deliverables.


Trust in the Project Manager as the Captain: Maintaining transparency throughout all project phases.


Support from Customers and Stakeholders: Achieving effective, recipient-focused communication.

Leadership Should Collaborate, Not Oppose.

Projects need to be managed. There’s no doubt about that. While part of the management is carried out by the project managers themselves, there’s also a significant need for the project to be embedded within the organisation. Therefore, the overall leadership plays a crucial role in terms of resources, coordination with other ongoing projects, and sometimes even the customer’s top leadership.

Unfortunately, the higher-level leadership doesn’t always grasp their role, often subjecting the project manager to an ‘examination’ during meetings. This approach is neither value-adding nor constructive. Instead, leadership should support the project and be mindful of actions that increase the likelihood of project success and customer satisfaction.

“In my time as a project manager, I’ve encountered steering committees that either functioned exceptionally well or not at all. It’s essential to recognise that a steering committee should consist of relevant individuals for the project and should not be overly large,” says Henrik, emphasising:

“Once, I had a steering committee with 15 members, where leadership alternated in their participation. It made absolutely no sense, and working under those circumstances was quite challenging.”

Another critical aspect of this leadership-project manager collaboration is how the project manager is perceived as a leader. Many project managers need to develop in this area. It often begins with gaining self-awareness about strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. For instance, project managers frequently need to demonstrate courage, challenge opposing viewpoints, represent their team, and be visionary. All of this requires experience, training, and abundant feedback – skills that may not always be present initially but can fortunately be significantly improved through practice.

Three valuable pieces of advice for strengthening collaboration with leadership and project managers:

Leadership Should Support – and not ‘Examine’- the Project Manager.


Project Managers should learn to think and speak like leaders — with a focus on delivering concise, clear, and forward-looking messages to the relevant recipients.


The collaboration between leadership, steering committees, and project managers should be prioritised — especially in complex and high-risk projects.

Meet Henrik

Vice President, Projects & Programmes
+45 4517 6000

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