Published on Thursday, February 19, 2009
What makes a Project Manager a good Project Manager? Employers struggle with this question a lot, I’m sure. They struggle with it when they’re creating a Project Management Office (PMO) and the accompanying policies, procedures and processes. They struggle with it when their Human Resources department is putting together job postings. They struggle with it when they’re interviewing candidates and I’m sure they struggle with it the most when they weigh the candidates and try to come up with the one that they decide should become part of their organization.
On the flipside, as Project Managers – or for some, aspiring Project Managers – we also struggle with this concept as we try to analyze our own characteristics to see if we have what it takes to be a Project Manager. Do we have what it takes to organize and lead a diverse team on a successful implementation? What is it that makes a good Project Manager tick? What qualities allow someone to lead a group of talented individuals and organize their efforts to arrive at a successful solution? I’ll give you my take – in no particular order, but I’m very open to your input as I know this is not a definitive list and is really longer than 5 or 10…it’s probably more like 100.
As a Project Manager you’re trying to contain a talented group of anywhere from 2 to 50 team members, keep the project budget in order and up-to-date, create an accurate status report, and schedule meetings throughout the week. None of this is possible without a decent amount of organization skills. Oddly enough, in my daily life at home, organization skills are not my strong point. Just ask my wife. But in terms of Project Management, I tend to thrive on the need to keep all of these activities together, stay on task and keep a project team moving forward.
As a Project Manager, you may be running 4-5 projects at a time. As I’ve discussed in previous articles, the formal communication alone on each project should involve a weekly team meeting, weekly Status Meeting with the customer, and a weekly Status Report to team members and the customer. If a PM is running 5 projects, that’s 15 formal communication points to coordinate. The informal communication that happens on a project in the form of emails, phone calls and impromptu or emergency meetings with team members and the customer can add a nearly infinite amount of additional communication points to coordinate.
I was once told by one of my Business Analysts on a project that he gets more emails from me than another other Project Manager he’s ever worked with. I definitely took that as a compliment because one of my biggest fears as a PM is that with so much communication happening between team members and between vendor and client I might miss communicating a critical piece of information.
The Project Manager is the central information repository for both project teams and many times the timeliness and thoroughness of his or her communication can be critical to the success of the current tasks and the project as a whole.
During an implementation, there may be time on your project when you have to play the role of negotiator. The most obvious time is when scope changes arise. Immediately, the Project Manager is thrown into the role of negotiator as he or she has to put together an estimate with the help of his team and present that package to the customer and ‘sell’ them on the additional work that is required. Sometimes this is a tough sell to a customer who may believe that the work is really within the original scope of the project.
The Project Manager must have the confidence and initiative to stand firm on scope issues as well as the ability to have the 1,000-foot view of the project in order to see possible negotiation points in case the ‘sell’ is harder than anticipated. For example, the PM needs to be ready to offer a phased approach to a project implementation if that is needed to negotiate a scope issue. A phased implementation involving moving a portion of the project to a later timeframe or phase may save the project timeline and make the customer happy even though they have to pay for the additional effort.
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