Interview with Bas De Baar

Filed under Interviews | Posted by PMStudent


Bas de Baar discusses Project Leadership in a global and virtual world through his popular blog and video podcast ?The Project Shrink?. With over a decade spent in the trenches as Software Project Manager within the publishing, financial and public sector, running multi-national teams, he has a lot to talk about.

Bas holds a masters degree in Business Informatics and lives with his wife in The Netherlands. He is author of the book ?Surprise! Now You?re a Software Project Manager? and is a member of The PMI New Media Council. This council brings together industry bloggers, webcasters and podcasters to help PMI advance the profession, to promote the exchange of ideas and knowledge and to make the best use of new social media channels.

joshnankivel Josh: Thank you so much for sharing your background and experience with the pmStudent community Bas! How did you get your start in Project Management?

Bas-debaarBas: I studied Business Informatics at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. As a final practice I had the opportunity to do research at a Project Management department at a large financial institution. The projects they performed suffered from what can be called “interventions”, which were changes triggered by the project environment. Being educated as a plan-driven-pro, I set out my checklist and searched for forgotten process components, only to find out after a couple of months that everything was neatly in place. From standard documents to procedures, they had it all. And still the project went from left to right.

Being the eager beaver that I was, I just kept on looking and looking for the missing ingredient but could not find a single clue to locating the feature or process that would help to solve the pressing problem. At one given moment, I had an “aha”-Erlebniss (a whack on the head), which turned out to be a life altering moment professionally. At the coffee corner, I overheard fellow project team members have a conversation about a procedure that they were not going to follow. My jaw dropped. Not following the official procedure? Not complying with company policies? If they didn’t follow procedure then all the changes implemented were going to be completed without the project manager?s knowledge? The penny dropped. It seems so simple now, but it really rocked my world at the time. They forgot to deal with the people.

This got me hooked on project management. And soon after getting my degree I started doing PM at newspapers in The Netherlands and Germany.

joshnankivel Josh: Who do you look up to and have learned a lot from in relation to project management?

Bas-debaarBas: Without any doubt Barry Boehm (wrote the classic “Software Engineering Economics”). He introduced me to two critical concepts in my thinking about PM:

a) Make everyone a winner (Theory W)

Everyone effected by the project, direct or indirect, has something to say, again direct or indirect, and will do so. Everyone wants to get the best from this project for him personally, or for his (part of the) organization. It’s the job of the software project manager to see that everyone gets what he wants, in one way or another. He has to “make everyone a winner” In this respect, the role of the project manager becomes that of a negotiator.

b) Balancing your approach

In “Balancing Agility And Discipline” he provides insights in when to apply agile methods and when to apply plan-driven methods. Barry argues that for every type there is a kind of project that is suited for one of the approaches. Or a kind of combination.

joshnankivel Josh: How do you manage internal conflicts between members of the your team?

Bas-debaarBas: I just have to refer you to this great explanation by Christina Bowen. She explains it much better than I can 🙂

joshnankivel Josh: What are your thoughts on leadership versus management?

Bas-debaarBas: Management is about running a project in an organizational context. You are dependent of the organization: they provide you with the authority, the resources, the information, the time and money. Management is about making sure you execute what the larger organization wants and monitor you stay within the dependencies.

Leadership is about independence. You can do everything yourself as a leader, you only need your personality and your own social skills. It is about motivating people, painting a great project vision, making sure every body is informed and heard.