Great Project Management
Great Project Management means much more than just meeting the negotiated deliverable, on-time, and within budget. But let’s face it, most companies would be thrilled if that happened – and they miss the bigger picture. Great Project Management means achieving outstanding results by developing the team, harnessing their collective domain expertise, empowering them to do, want, and expect more, and retaining them so great results can be repeated over and over again.
You can find a virtual cornucopia of material in the web about Project Management including what it means, the responsibilities of a Project Manager, how important it is in an organization, best practices, etc. It will all sound straightforward, even easy, if you stick to the structure and wisdom outlined. However, to achieve Great Project Management, you have to go beyond daily status reports and pushing around Excel spreadsheets.
After working for years in the United States for a remarkably successful startup in the demanding and highly technical world of 3D mechanical design software, I have formulated my own vision of great Project Management based on real-world, hands-on experience.
This article is the first of a series to impart that vision. I have decided to begin with a panoramic view of Project Management that will set the tone and shed light on the key elements that make the difference between typical Project Management and Great Project Management.
What do All Project Managers do?
Project Managers handle the coordination, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing of a project. They are responsible for the scope, resources (human, financial, etc.), and ultimately the success (or failure) of the project. Project Managers make decisions on process, team structure, and assignments. They know what types of skills are necessary for the project, how to lead meetings, how to set milestones and track progress. Nothing new here, eh?
Why do you need it?
We all set goals and objectives in our lives. We work at reaching them in a timely manner. In the same way, business organizations set goals and objectives to grow, find success, and make their clients happy. Obtaining these goals requires solid planning and optimization of resources. But is simply fulfilling the expectations of the client your only objective? What about exceeding the expectations? What about delivering more?
What qualities should Project Managers have?
A Project Manager should inspire their team, share the passion for a job well-done, and most of all create the best working environment for the team to be productive. A Project Manager is like a Life Coach: they help individuals find clarity of thought in order to make the right decisions and perform at their best.
The following are 8 qualities that every Project Manager should have:
Many think leadership is getting to be Mr Big, the center of attention. Although these are arguably byproducts, a true leader exists to serve the team. They make sure the deliverable and milestones are crystal clear, that every team member understands their role and responsibilities at every turn, removing any and all obstacles. They are the rudder that steers that ship, and without them, the team is lost.
Having a vision for the deliverable, the delivery process, and the delivery team keeps everyone marching smoothly toward a common goal. Every project has obstacles. A vision greases the wheels of progress and facilitates decision making at all levels.
Passion breeds determination and commitment to a job well-done. A manager should share that passion with others so it blossoms into a productive and creative culture where each team member cares not only about the success of their individual assignments, but for the success of the team as a whole.
The Business Dictionary defines Competence as “the capacity of a person to understand a situation and to act reasonably”. It does not say it’s a person with all the answers, yet a competent manager knows how to find them. They also know exactly what needs to get done and leave no room for doubts.
I can’t say enough about earning the trust of the customer and the team through setting the right examples. Knowing how to react, when to embrace change, and how to stand firm when tough decisions need to be made – all while recognizing actions speak a thousand words.
Having the capacity and awareness to tune-in to the customer and the team. To comprehend the state of mind and motivations of the different team members, treating them as people and not machines that are inter-changeable and replaceable.
Problem Solving Skills
In my view, this is one of the most critical skills. It’s amazing how many mangers do not solve issues when they arise, kicking the can down the road for another day. This calls Competence into question and is one of the fastest ways to kill team morale. An effective manager not only solves problems immediately, but anticipates and removes them before they happen.
Team Building Skills
This should come naturally and exists in a variety of styles – meaning completely different styles may yield equally effective results. However, one common thread is getting each team member to feel they belong and that their part is essential, no matter how big or small.
Are you looking for a Great Project Manager?
All the qualities above are important, no question, but what gets you or your company to the next level? What makes you stand out from the crowd? Well, some think it means getting training or certification as a Project Manager. Or finding those who have this certification. But does that really help? It can certainly serve as a guide or roadmap if no other exists, but it won’t get you to the finish line, nor will it get you to the next level. The following qualities, however, will.
The Difference that makes The Difference
Some say it is not necessary to be an expert in a certain domain. That to be knowledgeable is all you need. Not true. Every industry has its own peculiarities and challenges. If your project manager knows your industry, they not only have a substantially greater capacity to deliver, but they will implement the tiny details that make it great. Of course, domain expertise can be learned so find somebody that has at least some, and wants more.
Empowerment of the Team
Look at the 8 qualities above and try thinking about them in reverse. And by that I mean put yourself in shoes of one of team members. As a member of the team, you may think of yourself as a Leader, with a Vision, that is Competent. So don’t you want to show it? Unfortunately, many managers do not feel comfortable trusting others and delegating responsibility. They don’t take the time to recognize and cultivate the individual and collective abilities of the team. Treating team members as professionals, allowing participation with a measured degree of freedom, while holding them accountable to their performance, produces results beyond expectations.
Extraordinary Communication Skills
As with Team Building above, many think this is something that comes naturally and they are half right. The other half is a commitment to the others no matter the circumstance. The obvious signs of extraordinary communication is the seamless flow of information and the clarity at every step, both resulting in timely delivery at every milestone. On the other hand, the obvious signs of poor communication is the team asking about direction, being uncertain of goals, having low morale, all resulting in poor performance.
What is Great Project Management to you? What is your definition of a successful project? Is it when you provide your client with the completed project within the time limits and budget? In future posts I will go into more detail but I assure you, your customer, your team, and even you will be thrilled, even surprised, when you deliver a lot more than what is asked – and it’s easy to do with Great Project Management.
I invite your feedback. Let me know of your Project Management experiences including what worked, what you would do differently, and any questions you may have. If you got this far, thank you for reading!