Talking Integrity with Rick Valerga

Rick Valerga sitting down
Rick Valerga

Rick, welcome to A Girl’s Guide to Project Management! Can you give us a short description of what your book is about?

The Cure for the Common Project is all about making the jump from project manager to project leader. Processes, tools, and templates are one thing. But they can be completely undermined by low integrity behaviour. What good is Earned Value if you are constantly blaming others? That doesn’t establish a good leadership shadow for the project team. What good is it to have a project team work nights and weekends to hurl a product over the finish line if the sponsor considers the project a late, disastrous, ongoing headache? That doesn’t honour the hard work and sacrifices of your team.

The common thread among these project leadership questions is integrity. Integrity is the foundation of project leadership. This book explains why, and then gives Five Core Themes to help you position integrity at the front and centre of your project at all times. Especially when things get tough.

Great concept. Why did you write decide to write a book?

It started when someone at work asked me for some advice on how to be an effective project manager. Now I’ve always felt that PMI does a great job of teaching best practices. And I spent years putting those practices to use, with good success. But I felt that the true differentiators in project leadership were not the tools and techniques. They were habits and behaviours.

The most effective PMs had them, the worst PMs didn’t. When I started to think about how to articulate these ideas, I identified patterns and saw how they fit into five main themes. One day, I felt the need to capture these in a book, and the motivation never went away.

You need a lot of motivation to write a book! What was the process like and how long did it take you?

It took me over a year to complete. I sought a ton of review. I constantly revised the material based upon the feedback I received. Some of the core material remained unchanged from the very first time I wrote it. Some ideas were cropped, things that would make the framework too “busy”.

Working with a professional editor was a particularly revealing process! And as all authors know, the book is in many ways just the beginning. Then there is the engagement with audiences through speaking, writing articles, and participating in podcasts. Overall, I’ve found the process to be very enriching.

I did too, and I was also surprised at how much work comes after you turn in your manuscript. Still, I really enjoy speaking about the ideas in my books. What was the best thing about writing yours?

The most fulfilling moments are when an anonymous reader loves the book. One day I happened upon an Amazon review that said: “It’s about time someone wrote a book like this for project managers.” That was really nice.

And the hardest?

The hardest part is maintaining balance. For me, writing takes a lot of concentration. I found myself in these situations where I would earnestly tell my wife “I’ll be right there”, and then 90 minutes would go by in the blink of an eye. I felt guilty about this and we’ve established the right balance. The majority of this book was written after my son went to bed. I skipped a lot of TV.

Ha! Writing a book is a project. What’s your top tip for getting a successful result in project management?

My top tip: expect and prepare for tough times. Gut wrenching experiences. Your best defence during these tough times is systematic use of integrity from start to finish on your projects. And constantly check yourself. Am I being a martyr about this issue? What am I doing today to manage expectations? Am I sincere in my desire for my team members to succeed? Is the project’s narrative consistent among my stakeholders? Get these right and you’ll not only cast your strongest shadow as a project leader, you’ll be best positioned to meet challenges head-on.

Thanks, Rick. What’s next for you?

I’m excited to say that I’m just releasing a new book: Projectegrity.

Interesting title! What’s it about?

It’s specifically intended for any project manager to share across the team: to project contributors and sponsors alike. It’s interesting to me that if you search “project” on Amazon, you’ll pretty much find titles on project management. It seems a bit crazy that the only people interested in reading about projects are the managers. There are no guides to the fundamental habits and behaviours required for project greatness. These are precisely the gaps that Projectegrity sets out to address.

Sounds great. Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule for this interview.

Thank you very much!

More about Rick:
Rick Valerga is obsessed with project greatness. He has been a featured speaker at project management events, and is the author of Projectegrity and The Cure for the Common Project. He is a seasoned project leader with broad experience accumulated at Agilent Technologies and the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps. Rick is a Project Management Professional (PMP) and graduated with engineering degrees from Annapolis and Stanford.

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