Working on a badly managed project that is doomed to fail is a frustrating and disheartening experience. It becomes impossible to motivate yourself and retain any enthusiasm when you can see the project derailing before your very eyes.
Clearly, in the absence of a miracle, poor project management will result in a project reaching an unsuccessful conclusion, but what is it that defines a good project manager and why are some project managers so much more successful than others?
Successful Project Managers Are Highly Effective Communicators
Effective communication is possibly the most important skill of all in a project manager. In the absence of clear, regular communication between every member of the team, a project will usually fall to pieces.
A successful PM knows how to:
- Ask the right questions at the outset of the project
- Communicate goals
- Delegate tasks
- Keep everyone informed
Great communication ensures the smooth flow of the project stage by stage.
Motivation and Commitment
When a project manager fails to take ownership and the team can see their leader is not committed to the successful completion of the project, it can have a knock on effect on everyone. A motivated manager however motivates those around them and this encourages team members to put in 100% in terms of effort. Hard work and effort = great results.
A successful project manager will:
• Set the right standards
• Motivate those around them
• Have a ‘can do’ attitude
• Find creative solutions to any problems that arise
Experience and Knowledge
You cannot beat experience when it comes to project management. The best PM’s I know are those who have learned valuable lessons from their past mistakes and failures, enabling them to avoid potential pitfalls in the projects they manage.
Experience helps a successful PM to:
• Plan a realistic timeline
• Use the budget wisely
• Incorporate all aspects of project management in their plan
• Manage risk effectively
A successful manager is able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and knows exactly how to drive a project forward efficiently using the project management process and tools. Each stage of the project must be organized in a logical sequence in order to achieve successful results and manage time effectively.
Other important skills in this area include:
• Keeping a close eye on progress
• Monitoring and recording results
• Considering all of the external factors that could negatively impact on results
Problems can and will arise during the lifespan of a project and this often creates the need for a change in direction. The worst kinds of managers are those who are inflexible and resist change, hanging on to their original plans for dear life. A lack of flexibility and disregard for new ideas when the project is in progress is often the first nail in the coffin in terms of a projects progress in the light of an obstacle.
A smart PM will:
• Step back and review their project plan based on new information
• Embrace change when necessary
• Listen to the suggestions of others
Many of the skills required to become a successful project manager can be developed and improved a great deal with training, whilst other skills and traits, (such as common sense), cannot be taught! Some individuals are simply more naturally suited to a project management role than others due to their personality.
The Spectrum of Project Managers
Put simply the reason that some project managers are more successful than others is that they possess greater skills in the areas of communication and organization, bring a wealth of experience to the table and are committed to their work. On top of that, in my experience the best managers are those who are flexible thinkers and not afraid to adapt.
With a lack of skills in any one of these areas, you will generally see a pattern in which projects go over budget, fail to meet deadlines and more often than not fail to achieve the desired goal successfully.
Felix is a member of the team at Agil8. The company offers the highest quality Agile consulting and training. Agil8 draws on experience of working with organizations across all industry sectors over many years, and the management and delivery of some of the world’s largest and most complex Agile implementations.