The Golden Circle in Project Management

The Golden Circle in Project Management

The Golden Circle in Project Management
The Golden Circle in Project Management


Many of you are probably familiar with the famous Simon Sinek TedX talk describing how successful companies communicate “from the inside out”. In his famous talk (one of the most viewed TEDx talk of all time), Simon Sinek explains that great organizations and leaders always start with the WHY rather than explaining the WHAT or the HOW. According to him, answering the WHY question makes great leaders inspire action. He codified this simple idea into the Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle simply states that great leaders and organizations communicate in this way because people don't buy WHAT you do or HOW you do it, they buy WHY you do it. Or better put, people do business with people who believe what they also believe. This is the common denominator for all successful leaders and organizations like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Wright Brothers and others. Think of the famous Martin Luther King speech for example where he connects with the audience by explicitly stating his beliefs, his dream for a better future. Imagine if he started his speech with “I have a plan” or "I have a process"....

After watching this video about the Golden Circle, I thought why not apply this very same principle to project management. Just think about it, one of the biggest success factors in project management is communication (and lack thereof can lead to project failure). When you boil it down to the basics, project management is primarily about communication. Typically, 85 to 90% of a Project Manager's time should be spent on communication.

The only thing is that, as Project Managers, we tend to communicate more on processes, plans, risks and issues – rather than our beliefs, purpose or vision. The very nature of project management methodologies focuses on "doing things right" through processes (the “HOW”), while attaining the output of the plan (the “WHAT”). Our measly attempt to communicate on the “WHY” can be blurred in business cases that focus on the business justification of our projects. Most of the time this is not a truly representative of our belief in the project, but rather a collusion of technical details that speak to upper management such as ROI, NPV, payback and other financial details.

And we wonder why stakeholder engagement and senior management commitment, specifically lack thereof, becomes one of the key reasons why projects fail? It's not that we aren't communicating, it's that we are communicating from the outside-in. And that's why we encounter stakeholder engagement issues. Ever hear these reasons when projects don't seem to go as planned:

We failed to identify or engage the stakeholders in a key solution or decision proceeding without their full buy-in...

We failed to view the project through the eyes of the stakeholders resulting in a failure to appreciate how the project will impact the stakeholders or how they will react to the project...

 "We failed to establish effective communications between individuals, groups or organizations involved in the projec

As Project Managers, I think that if we shift our focus and start communicating from the inside-out we would have a better chance to engage stakeholder. By applying the Golden Circle technique to our communication strategies, I am convinced that we would hear less about such stakeholder engagement issues. When stakeholders understand the WHY (and believe it in) they will connect to the purpose of the project, and instinctively make the link between the HOW and the WHAT. 

Respectively, the processes and outputs will naturally make sense as a means to achieving the purpose of the project. Now you are probably asking yourself, “OK - Kamil, thanks – but how can I bring my project purpose to life and communicate using the PM Golden Circle technique”?

Well, let's start by introducing the concept of the “PM Elevator Pitch”. Generally speaking, the elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in what your project is aiming to achieve. You can also use this technique in project management to create interest in a project – or in yourself as a project manager. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name. This technique is a powerful tool and the first step to integrating a strong WHY into your PM Golden Circle to help build the necessary buy-in from stakeholders.

Below is a template that I've tailored using the seven guiding principles of Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), which is an Axelos Global Best practice strongly focused on vision-led programme success. Let this template serves as a means to structure the syntax of a purposeful PM elevator pitch, based on a vision that inspires other to get-involved in your project:

Now that you are armed with these tools it's time to integrate your PM Elevator pitch into a vision-led PM Golden circle enabling you to communicate with a strong purposeful WHY, help connect emotionally with your project stakeholders and drive performance of your project. If you believe in your project, your stakeholders will believe in it as well. In conclusion, as stated by Simon Sinek “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. 

But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat and tears”. And also you just never know who will walk into the elevator with you and so be prepared, start with WHY and show them that your project is making a real difference to the organisation and to your customer - Good luck!

The Author : Kamil Mroz

About :
I am an award-winning project leader with director-level & site-leadership experience, strong communication skills and a strategic long-term view enabling the connection between strategy and operational execution.

I am driven and energized by coaching, mentoring and developing talents, while overcoming transversal organizational challenges. My experience in people management has enabled me to discover my passion for the leadership of intercultural, diverse and technical teams composed of both direct reports and cross-functional matrix project teams. 

I have been awarded global distinctions from both the largest PM organizations, IPMA and PMI for advanced project management expertise, strong team work, communication & leadership.

I owe my servant leadership approach to the time I have dedicated to social and volunteer-causes where I focused on several high-impact philanthropic projects in Europe. I am also proud to have also been the first ever student to be awarded the Young Alumni of the Year by the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and I also Chair of the ISPE BeNeLux Steerco on Project Management.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post