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Stephen Covey's Seven Effective Habits of Management

Updated on September 2, 2012

Stephen R Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is an influential book for those seeking to enhance individual or group effectiveness. The seven habits offered by Covey are the following:

Habit one: Be Proactive

Habit two: Begin with the End in Mind

Habit three: Put First Things First

Habit four: Think Win Win

Habit Five: Seek First to Understand and Then to be Understood

Habit Six: Synergize

Habit Seven: Sharpen the Saw

These habits can be applied in a project management team environment.

The first habit outlined by Covey is “Be Proactive”. Covey distinguishes a proactive individual from a reactive individual. A reactive individual reacts to the stimulus with a sense of resignation. For instance, such an individual says, “there’s nothing that I can do”, “what can we do?” “Things are like that” and so on, while a proactive individual takes action from the standpoint of empowered, and authoritative position. They focus their energy on productive outcome and value addition. As against this the reactive people focus on limitations of the environment and circumstances that they surrender to. The project manager should be proactive focusing on the ‘circle of influence’. The project manager must be decisive. An effective project manager is responsible enough for successful completion of the project despite problems coming in their way. A proactive project manger has vision to add to the overall business.

The second habit that Covey describes is “Begin With the End in Mind” is quite a critical characteristic of the visionary leadership based on the principle that the goals are first created in the mind before they manifest in reality. For project managers, this habit entails the first two phases of the life cycle of a project (i) Concept and (ii) Development. From the perspective of Project management, this habit answers the question “what goals, ends and objectives are to be achieved through this project?” Every goal, big or small, begins at the level of conceptualization and it is not possible to successfully complete a project unless the end is clear in mind or what is to be achieved is known well in advance.

The third habit closely follows the second. The third habit is “Put First Things First”. This is actually, the physical creation of the second step- begin with the end in mind. In terms of project management, this habit involves organizing and sequencing of tasks, that is, prioritizing the task after breaking down work structure. This habit enables a project manager to identify as well as fix problems as early as possible. At this stage, it might be least costly to manage the mistakes. This habit also addresses time management. An effective project manager understands and distinguishes urgent issues from important issues. Covey identifies four quadrants into which tasks and activities are separated. These are (i) Important, Urgent (ii) Important, Not Urgent (iii) Not Important, Urgent

(iv) Not Important, Not Urgent. An effective manager primarily focuses on the first two quadrants.

Covey’s principles are simple and workable. However, the integration of the seven habits in the work ethic results in powerful outcomes. It is useful for any individual and can be applied to any task. It can be especially useful for the project managers who are involved in an interpersonal setting of goal accomplishment and successful project accomplishment on a day to day basis.


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