Gandalf is many things - a Maiar of Valinor, a Wizard of Middle-earth, a Member of the White Council. Above all he is the great enabler. Gandalf lets his diverse team of elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits do most of the work, while his leadership drives their performance.
Let us examine some of Gandalf's best characteristics in the context of Project Management and what role they play in the success of the project.
1. Do own research to determine project pros/cons. Gandalf does not accept that One Ring is gone from the world per Saruman's advice, despite the fact that Saruman is the head of the White Council (i.e. superior to Gandalf in power and status). Instead, Gandalf goes off to the distant land of Gondor to search ancient scrolls in order to understand the peril and power of the One Ring and verify that it is indeed in Bilbo Baggins' possession. Gandalf can easily let someone else research this task or simply accept Saruman's reasoning, but he wants to be sure. This project is too important to leave questions unanswered as the fate of the entire world depends on it.
A successful PM needs to be very sure about the project he/she seeks to undertake.
2. Gather all stakeholder inputs to set the plan for the project. Gandalf does not attempt to take a leading role at the Council of Elrond, but allows all stakeholders (elves, men, dwarves, and hobbits) to share their thoughts on the One Ring. As part of this open discussion a clear decision emerges that the One Ring must be destroyed and the only place to destroy it is in the fires of Mount Doom in the land of Mordor. The resources for the project are identified as the Nine Walkers of the Fellowship of the Ring. Since no army can enter Mordor by force, their plan is set for secrecy.
A successful PM must enable open communication and consider all stakeholder inputs in planning the project.
A successful PM must plan before acting, but should not needlessly delay taking action.
4. Join the team in the trenches. Nobody forces Gandalf to join the Fellowship of the Ring. He can instruct the Fellowship members on their journey and send them off on their quest. Instead, Gandalf joins the group and endures the hardships of their journey with the rest of the team. The Fellowship stays united and motivated under his leadership, but falls apart when he is lost in Moria.
A successful PM needs to be a part of the team and not direct them from afar.
5. Take the ego out of the project. Gandalf ensures the quest to Mordor is not about any member of the Fellowship, but about the completion of the project. The Fellowship is full of powerful personalities, such as Aragorn (heir to Gondor), Boromir (Captain-General of Gondor), Legolas (Prince of the Wood Elves), Gimli (of the royal line of the dwarves), Frodo (the Ring-bearer), and of course, the great Gandalf himself. Yet, Gandalf ensures that even the other hobbits (Sam, Merry, and Pippin) are treated as equal members of the Fellowship and their contributions are valued.
A successful PM must ensure the team is dedicated to the project, not to their individual glory.
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