Published on Friday, February 20, 2009
In Part 1 of this topic, I covered three of the characteristics that I consider to be of utmost importance when you are a Project Manager. Those first three covered being a good organizer, an excellent communicator, and a wise negotiator. In this installment, I will discuss leadership, listening skills, and the importance of being well-connected within the PM’s own organization.
One of the most important characteristics that a Project Manager must exude is confidence. A weak PM will lose control of the team, the customer, the scope, and ultimately their job. A customer will sense the weakness and either use that to take over control of the project or possibly request that the Project Manager be replaced. Skilled technical resources will never look up to their Project Manager as a competent leader if they sense they are weak, wishy-washy in their decision-making, or simply lack the knowledge to ‘pull it off.’
The Project Manager must be ready to take charge and not afraid to make tough or unpopular decisions. They also must be ready to fight for their project, their customer, and/or their team members. That could be escalating issues – including resource availability issues – to executive management in order to ensure the success of their project.
As important as confidence is, the PM must also know when to listen and rely not on their own understanding. As PMs, we are doomed to fail if we do not listen to others and look to our team and the customer for vital information and feedback as the project progresses. Too many times we end up working heads-down as we push toward a critical project deadline or milestone and miss some of the critical things going on around us. Remember, the rest of the project team also has their hand on the pulse of the project and at any given time may have more vital information than the PM to share including wise views on the direction…or re-direction…needed on the project.
In many cases the Business Analyst is even closer to the customer and the day-to-day activities on the project and it is absolutely necessary that the Project Manager have a mutually respectful working relationship with the BA and listen carefully to their input – it may be the best information they receive throughout the project.
Well Connected in the Organization
There is no question that the Project Manager is the point person on the project team….truly for both the delivery team and the customer. Sometimes, in order to ensure forward progress on an engagement, the Project Manager will need to dig deep into their own organization to get the support needed. A well connected Project Manager will know the right individuals in the right departments like HR, Tech Support, Sales, Finance/Accounting, etc. to get the answers, support, or software fixes delivered in a timely manner to keep the project running smoothly. The bottom line is they need to know who to get what they need from and they need to know where to go to get it.
For me, having solid connections within the Accounting departments and within the Application Development group has provided me with the greatest benefits. With accounting connections, I could get billing issues resolved quickly and get the answers I needed quickly when trying to justify customer invoices or prepare project budget information for the customer. Having solid development staff connections including the Development Manager has helped ensure that I can usually get the right developer for the project without too much of a fight.
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