The Pathfinder Mindset

The Project Management Mindset for Academics

The Pathfinder Mindset supports the Pathfinder Framework to effectively manage academic projects. It encompasses a set of principles, values, and practices that guide the Pathfinder (the academic researcher and project manager) and the Messenger (the academic supervisor) in successfully navigating through project challenges and achieving project objectives.

The values and building blocks of the Pathfinder Tent are transformed into 17 guidelines which will help you cultivate the Pathfinder Mindset and optimize your project management approach:

  1. Uphold the Law: Never break the law, including safety, authority, or university regulations. Adhere to legal and ethical standards throughout the project.
  2. Take Ownership: Don't postpone or delay dealing with a problem or task. Do not make your problem someone else's problem, such as a Companion. Take responsibility for addressing and solving issues that arise within your project.
  3. Set SMART Objectives: Define your project objectives using the SMART technique—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Clear and well-defined objectives provide a roadmap for success.
  4. Escalate as a Last Resort: Consider escalation to others, such as the Messenger, as a last resort. It's your responsibility as the Pathfinder to solve problems and find solutions. Seek assistance only when all other options have been exhausted.
  5. Be a Servant Leader: Embrace a servant leadership approach throughout the project. Avoid blaming or finger-pointing team members. Instead, focus on coaching and supporting them to overcome challenges. Preferably, engage in face-to-face communication to foster effective collaboration.
  6. Adapt Leadership Approach: Tailor your leadership approach based on the situation. In cases where stakeholders’ interests are at stake or when working with a new team, a more directive leadership style may be necessary initially. Gradually transition towards a self-organizing team dynamic.
  7. Embrace Pro-activity: Avoid waiting for problems to escalate. Instead, be proactive in identifying potential issues and take preventive measures to mitigate risks. Stay one step ahead to ensure project success.
  8. Proactively Remove Impediments: Take proactive steps to identify and remove any obstacles or impediments that hinder the progress of the project. By addressing issues promptly, you ensure smooth workflow and minimize disruptions.
  9. Understand People's Concerns: Before taking actions, always strive to understand the concerns and feelings of individuals involved. Empathy and consideration for others' perspectives foster a cooperative and supportive project environment.
  10. Seek Root Causes: Before taking action, delve into the root causes of problems or issues. Understand the underlying factors contributing to the challenges at hand. Review the relevant artifacts and information to gain insights.
  11. Prioritize Face-to-Face Communication: Whenever possible, prioritize face-to-face communication over email or other indirect means. Direct interaction enhances understanding, promotes effective collaboration, and reduces miscommunication.
  12. Distinguish Between Risks and Issues: Understand whether a challenge is a risk or an issue. Respond accordingly, employing appropriate strategies and actions to mitigate risks or resolve issues promptly.
  13. Verify Claims and Facts: Differentiate between assumptions/claims and proven facts. Base your decisions and actions on reliable information and verified data.
  14. Take Action Mindfully: While it's important to be proactive, ensure that any actions you take are well-considered and aligned with solving the specific problem at hand. Thoughtful decision-making contributes to effective problem resolution.
  15. Maintain Process Integrity: Don't allow yourself to be bullied into deviating from your established project processes. Uphold the integrity of your chosen methodology and resist external pressures that may compromise project quality or efficiency.
  16. Embrace Change and Learning: Welcome change, learning, and continuous improvement. Embrace an iterative approach.
  17. Avoid Firing or Replacing Team Members: Instead of resorting to firing or replacing team members such as a student assistant or a lab technician, invest in coaching and developing their skills. Nurture a culture of continuous learning and growth within the team.