Interview with Project Manager of the Year Harald Kiendler

Interview with Project Manager of the Year Harald Kiendler 22.01.2015 - Harald Kiendler, Group Leader for Chassis Development at Siemens AG Austria, Mobility, Mainline Transport, Bogies in Graz, was named Project Manager of the Year by the IAPM in December 2014. This is the third time that the award has been presented to the most outstanding IAPM-certified Senior Project Manager in the preceding twelve months. In addition to his excellent performance in the certification examination, Harald Kiendler’s managers have confirmed his outstanding leadership qualities. We talked to Harald about his work, about project management and about his relationship with his team, and he also provided us with some very interesting book recommendations.

IAPM: You’re Project Manager of the Year 2014. What advice can you give to other project managers? Have you got any tips for effective project management?

Harald Kiendler: Build your networks carefully and cultivate them, Create an environment that fosters transparent communication, Always treat people with respect. What goes around comes around!

IAPM: What advice would you give to someone who is starting out a career in project management?

Harald Kiendler: People who are new to project management are often thrown in at the deep end. But that’s often the best way to learn how to swim. You have to learn the important project management basics as quickly as possible - either by studying them yourself or, ideally, in a professional training course like the IAPM certification courses.
Always try to find an experienced project manager as your mentor. Listen to his advice with an open mind and be willing to learn.

IAPM: Did you always want to be a project manager? What made you choose this profession?

Harald Kiendler: I was a very committed mechanical engineer who always wanted to get involved in the product development side of things. I love the way it combines technology and project management. I’m always motivated by the opportunity to create something new with my team, and to be responsible for the result.

IAPM: What do you particularly like about a career in project management?

Harald Kiendler: I like working with people and that great feeling you get at the end of a project, knowing that you’ve created something. I also think it’s important for me to completely identify with our products. As a rail vehicle engineer I can make a contribution to a more environmentally friendly future.

IAPM: Why did you choose to obtain your certification from the IAPM?

Harald Kiendler: I had several reasons for choosing the IAPM as my certification provider in Graz. Firstly, it upholds very high standards of project manager training, secondly its trainers have an excellent reputation and, lastly, I wanted a certificate without an expiry date.

IAPM: What do you consider to be the main functions of a project manager?

Harald Kiendler: The project manager defines the project objectives, and he ensures that the project team is aware of them, understands them and never loses sight of them. He represents the project internally and externally, and establishes effective information flows. He coordinates the project, schedules and monitors project deadlines and budgets, and scrutinises the quality of the technical product.

IAPM: Which project management methods and tools are particularly important to you?

Harald Kiendler: We use DOORS for requirements management and Primavera for schedule and cost tracking. One of the specific challenges associated with product development is the proper definition of maturity levels. We use the milestone method for that, and we're also committed to the continuous improvement of our milestone checklists.

IAPM: You’ve already worked in various projects. Was there one project that you particularly remember and why?

Harald Kiendler: I expect a lot of project managers have the same experience. Like your first car, you never forget your first project. In my first project I was the Technical Manager responsible for the development of the chassis for the Deutsche Bahn’s BR189 locomotive. And I’m proud to say that the first locomotives in that series have now clocked up over two million kilometres without any major problems.

IAPM: What personal traits should a project manager have in order to manage teams effectively?

Harald Kiendler: He should take the time to communicate, involve his team in decisions and welcome their feedback. He should inspire confidence in his team and be someone they can count on (i.e. apply transparent values, admit to his mistakes and never lie to them). A project manager should never delegate decisions that only he can make to others.

IAPM: What kind of a relationship do you have with your team? Are you close or do you keep your distance? What do you think makes a good relationship?

Harald Kiendler: Generally, we’re on very friendly terms with each other in Graz. Most of us are on first-name terms, so a distanced management style wouldn’t be very effective. First-name terms makes it easier to address problems and discuss expectations. I hope that my team would say I have a collaborative management style, and that I’m results-oriented but also focused on social factors.

IAPM: Do you think a person is born a project manager, or is everyone who learns the theory able to become a good project manager?

Harald Kiendler: The project manager should be a communicator and networker, and he has to enjoy holding a management function. I don’t think that an introverted person would be happy in our profession for long. Since introversion and extraversion are in-born traits, I’d have to say yes: “You have to be born a project manager“.

IAPM: How do you switch off after a stressful day? What advice would you give to colleagues who are at risk of becoming burned out and how can you prevent yourself from being overworked? How do you retain your balance, despite all the challenges you face as project manager?

Harald Kiendler: I think that the older you get, the more important a healthy work-life balance becomes. So, whenever possible, I try not to take work home with me. At the weekend I often go to the mountains, because that’s where I can recharge my batteries best. I also travel for several weeks at a time with my girlfriend because it’s a great way to put some distance between yourself and your work.

IAPM: Is there a project management book you’ve read that you’d like to recommend to other project managers?

Harald Kiendler: One book on management that I’d definitely recommend is "Sich und andere führen" by Karl Kälin and Peter Müri. The book by Stephen R. Covey called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is another good read for anyone interested in time management.
In contrast to those, I’d also like to remind people about the philosophical novel written 40 years ago by Robert M. Pirsig which explores the metaphysics of quality: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.

IAPM: What three trends do you think we’ll see in future project management?

Harald Kiendler: I think future project managers will need a lot more leadership savvy. And one key trend will be ‘leadership without positional power’. Agile project management will replace traditional models in many areas, and benchmarking will become even more important.

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