In this article, I'll present Jason Charvat's take on the attributes of a project manager as documented in his book “Project Management Nation: Tools, Techniques, and Goals for the New and Practicing IT Project Manager.

Attributes of a project manager

For about three years as a project manager, I failed to listen to my team members and came across as arrogant. The one thing I learned from experience is that right action gets right results and wrong action gets wrong results. This kept driving me compulsively to consider what attributes I needed to possess if I ever was going to be an outstanding project manager.

Project management, as a profession, has changed through the years and has produced many good project managers who have risen to higher levels, consulted world-wide, and often started their own organizations due to their broader understanding of business principles. Within the project management profession, a manager quickly becomes well-known in a very short period of time; clients identify those project managers who are good and those who cannot perform well. The following personal attributes demonstrate the profile of a good project manager:

  • Self-confident
  • Problem solver
  • Good listener
  • Able to gain the respect of the team
  • An effective communicator
  • Capable of reacting dynamically and making decisions quickly
  • Considered a professional
  • A team player
  • Knowledgeable about project management

Project management consultants are normally distinguishable from other company managers by the following attributes:

  • Reputation. The project manager is well-known by name in his or her industry and is often called upon to deliver papers, case studies, and new concepts to this audience.
  • Experience. The project manager has sufficient experience and has completed many projects.
  • Leadership. The project manager possesses the necessary leadership skills to lead people.
  • Presentation skills. The project manager has the ability to communicate on all levels in order to inform about project status.
  • Expertise. A project manager is normally employed because he or she is an expert on the subject and can speak with confidence on any project discipline.
  • Professionalism. The project manager, who belongs to reputable project organizations, abides by a code of ethics specifically designed for the project profession, thus ensuring that clients, organizations, and society are able to entrust project managers with their daily duties.

Now, we will look at further at Jason Chravat’s presentation of the attributes of a project manager from his book entitled "Project Management Nation: Tools, Techniques, and Goals for the New and Practicing IT Project Manager."

We’ll discuss the need for the project manager to have:

  • General knowledge of project management
  • Understanding of technology and some technical background
  • Ability to work successfully as a problem resolution professional

These are just a few more of the key areas of expertise that the project manager needs to possess. Read on for further discussion.

Knowledge of Project Management

The first step for a newcomer to become qualified in project management is to complete a program of education. Meeting with others who are learning about project management is helpful, but it takes time. Alternatively, a prospective project manager can gather the information on his or her own. Those new to the profession don’t always need degree programs or pay large sums of money just to learn project management. Many of the world’s leading project managers learned their skills and techniques from experience and on-the-job training. That’s where the best secrets lie, and that’s why I thought sharing my experiences with project management would be helpful.

Technical Authority

Project managers often tell me that, as project managers, they do not need to understand the technology or technical issues because the technical resources working on the project will be responsible for the technical detail. Unfortunately, in the IT environment today, it is important for all project managers to be well-versed in the relevant project technology (including its applications and processes) and be able to communicate on technical issues with the “techies.” The majority of organizations that employ project managers insist that the project managers be able to take technical decisions and that they possess the necessary technical skill sets to be on a similar level as the technical staff.

I have heard many IT resources complain bitterly about project managers who haven’t got the foggiest notion of what needs to be done technically. The result is often that many of these resources simply carry on with their own development process and view the project manager only as an administrative manager who coordinates time sheets and ensures the delivery of status reports.

Project managers who are not well versed on the technical level find themselves (1) isolated, (2) lacking in credibility, (3) not consulted technically on major development issues, (4) not taken seriously, and (5) possibly even provided with false information. Project managers who understand the technology and can use it practically can apply such knowledge with outstanding results. Project managers also need to be certain that they have obtained the necessary project authority from the project sponsor and then communicate this to all stakeholders. This senior executive involvement often does the trick!

I always encourage project managers to make technical decisions if and when an opportunity arises, or to be involved in any way possible, by playing the role of facilitator or negotiator with the staff.

Sun Tsu said…

If the general’s employment of his mind is not in harmony with the army, even though the formation’s lightness and heaviness are correct, and the front and rear are appropriate, they will still not conquer the enemy.

Ability to Identify and Resolve Problems

Problems will arise on any project, no matter how much planning and effort have been made to avoid them. Recovering from any such problem means that the earlier the project manager can address the problems, the better. Identifying problems may require the project manager to review tasks with resources in order to find the real causes of these problems. If the causes are not within the manager’s own control or authority, then he or she must go to the project sponsor and seek advice there.

As alarming as this may seem, it may mean stopping the project until a solution is found, which is a good suggestion. Remember, the earlier you make the input to correct things, the smaller the input required.

Continuing to let tasks and milestones go off track will make it more difficult to correct the situation.

Now, let's look at further at Jason Chravat’s presentation of the attributes of a project manager from his book entitled “Project Management Nation: Tools, Techniques, and Goals for the New and Practicing IT Project Manager.”

In this segment, we’ll discuss the need for the project manager to be able to:

  • Make timely and critical decisions
  • Effectively select and manage a team of skilled IT resources
  • Have a professional approach when dealing with management, the team, and the customer

Ability to Make Decisions

An important attribute of any project manager is the ability to make decisions on a project. In meetings, project managers are often challenged to make decisions that are crucial in moving the project forward. If the project manager cannot effectively make decisions, the project surely fail.

Ability to Select and Manage a Project Team

It is important that the project manager be able to draw up a preliminary list of people who will be needed on the project. He or she can be do this by selecting those individuals who are available within the organization and who possess the relevant skills and experience required by the project. The project manager should be able to guide and initiate the external hiring process for those team members who are unavailable. Key factors or selection criteria that should be kept in mind when selecting team members are:

  • Candidates have the skills and expertise for the project
  • Candidates are available to remain for the full duration required on the project
  • Candidates are team players
  • Candidates are results-orientated and can set goals
  • Candidates are optimistic about the project and outcome
  • Candidates are trustworthy
  • Candidates are able to work on multiple tasks in isolation

Remember, once the project manager has selected the team members,the success of the project will depend on the manager’s ability to keep the team focused, optimistic, and committed to achieving the overall project objectives. However, it is not uncommon for personal problems to arise while working on a project, and the project manager should be able to identify many of the symptoms ahead of time. The project manager should have the experience and ability to work with all people, irrespective of any individual’s race, religion, nationality, age, or gender. The project manager and the individual should immediately deal with any conflict that arises, and the manager should use the most appropriate course of action to resolve the problem. Additionally, the ability to praise and recognize the project team is important. It is essential that when the team has worked hard to meet objectives, often under difficult circumstances, that they are awarded the recognition.

Having a Professional Approach

Project managers should want to be considered as professionals. The status affects the quality of life for all people on the project, organization, and even in society. Therefore, it becomes vital that a project manager conducts work in a professional manner in order to earn and maintain the confidence of team members, colleagues, employees, employers, clients, and the public. The following is a code of ethics that project managers should use to help maintain their professionalism:

  • As project manager, I will strive to maintain high professional standards in the preparation and delivery of my projects, and I will be held accountable for the success or failure of those projects.
  • Regarding the actual work aspect of my project, I will strive to provide the leadership, trust, tools, and support to ensure all projects are completed on time, within cost, specification, and to my clients’ requirements.

Professionalism refers to being able to encourage respect and honesty in all business-related matters and during the course of any project. It is important that project managers ensure that all client or employer information be kept confidential and not lead to a situation where there is a conflict of interest.

Project managers also have a duty to their respective communities, by ensuring that no project be implemented in any location where it could possibly place lives and property at risk. An appropriate quotation from one of history’s famous project managers can be used to describe ethics.

The general must be righteous. If he is not righteous, then he will not be severe. If he is not severe, then he will not be awesome. If he is notawesome, then the troops will not die for him. Thus righteousness is thehead of the army. —Sun Tzu