What makes a ‘Good’ Project Manager?

The traits of a good project manager are becoming ever more discussed on LinkedIn message boards. The subject has many diverse perhaps controversial views we are going to debate. Here are some ideas on what it takes to become a ‘Good Project Manager’.

Let’s define ‘Project Manager’

A Project Manager is responsible for planning, managing the resources, controlling progress and ensuring that the work is completed within an agreed time scale. The project manager is accountable for delivering the project products. To define what makes a project manager good, we should be in agreement about the role and responsibilities included.

The word ‘Good’

In CUPE’s eyes a good Project Manager is somebody who can deliver consistent project success. In short a project that meets the business case with in a defined quality, time and budget – there is obviously a lot more to it than that.

Personality

  • A good Project Manager needs to take charge of their projects. They are likely to have natural instincts to chief and manage others around them. A good PM aims for clarity of authority levels within their projects and be duty-bound to drive the project to successful closure.
  • Good Projects Managers are often born logical and analytical. They are able to foresee prospected risks before they become an issue. Do you want help on managing your risks?
  • Successful Project Managers are frequently easy to get on with. They are able be empathetic, resolving issues between suppliers and users. At the same time commanding respect. Very tricky indeed.
  • They center their work on building positive relationships. This  is very important for Project Managers.

Skills

  • A good Project Manager is able to select and apply the most suitable skill or tool to a project from their tool box.
  • They have the capability to plan with confidence, predicting likely obstacles.
  • There are able to identify and obtain resources appropriate to their Project.
  • They remain capable to take a bird’s eye view of the Project as a whole.
  • A good Project Manager also has problem solving skills.

What personality traits and skills would you add?

Communication

A good Project Manager is able to communicate on all levels. They remain able to bridge the gap between users and suppliers, as we mentioned previously. They are also able to communicate exact expectations to their team members. This important to meet specific sometimes escalating requirements.

A good Project Manager should be able to clearly identify their visions throughout the lifespan of a project.

Thought process

A good Project Manager should be able to think outside the box. Their gift for foresight should help them look down the project timeline and make rational predictions, founded upon practical assumptions. They are able to strategically forecast what impact probable circumstances can have on product delivery. They are able to see the complete picture when managing their projects.

They should also have a pragmatic approach to problem solving, being able to adapt to different situations. This is especially the case with contractors.

We have been very subjective with our personality traits, skills, communication traits and thought processes. What else do you think makes a good project manager that we have missed out? We would love to hear what your feedback.

So how can all this be measured? APMG have recently launched a new accreditation called PRINCE2 Professional taking into account your ability to apply not just understand the method.

 

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Comments

  1. David
    This is a good post and captures many of the capabilities and competencies a ‘good’ PM needs. A PM not only must manage the known and unknown, they must also provide strong leadership. Soft skills are just as important, if not more than important, as hard skills.

    Your definition of ‘Project Manager’ is good though in the wider market place the role is very often mixed with another. As these muddied waters are cleared more ‘good’ PM’s will come to the fore.

    Deanne

  2. Thanks for the comment Deanne, just wondered what you meant about the role being mixed with another. Do you mean a BAU role that needs to manage a ‘special’ project and then suddenly viola they’re a PM?

  3. Hi Lindsay
    That is one area where it gets muddy but I was actually referring to IT Projects where application knowledge is mixed with project management.
    It’s particularly prevalent in the SAP world where there’s an ongoing perception that a good experienced PM cannot manage an SAP project unless they have SAP application knowledge.
    If a PM is needed, hire a PM. If an application specialist is needed, hire one. If a technical architect is required, get one of those. The experienced PM with process flow and business nous will instinctively know what ‘smells’ right and what doesn’t and challenge the specialists accordingly. What they shouldn’t be getting involved with is how something is configured.

    Muddying and mixing the roles does not result in quality outcomes.

  4. Interesting insight in this article. I absolutely agree with the skills listed (At least in the high tech US PMs rarely have resource control, but we should be able to raise the need effectively). The additional notes on “Communication” and “Thought Process” are bang on and vitally important.

    I’ve got concerns on the Word “Good” and some of the Personality sections.

    Word Good: “In short a project that meets the business case with in a defined quality, time and budget ”

    This is one of the reasons I think agile methods are gaining so much traction. It is extremely rare that requirements never change. And defining project success by the iron triangle in no way reflects projects that are wildly successful, even though they didn’t meet the original triangle constraints. And on the flip side there are far to many projects that shipped on time, on budget, in scope and we absolute failures . I believe we should be measuring success by the value a project brings to the customer and the company, not if it meets some artificial constraints set at the project start.

    Personality
    “A good Project Manager needs to take charge of their projects”
    This is very “Command and Control” style management. Article after article and Book after Book are showing this to be a flawed style. Daniel Pink shows some great science on this in his book. In the last decade we’ve seen the ‘servant leadership’ concept to be a better way to lead. And ironically, the military’s “Command and Control” is more like agile. In the US Marines, they empower the man in the field to make the decisions. The generals just give the objective and constraints, they don’t tell you how to secure that beachhead. Empower the team as a project manager and you’ll go a lot farther.

    “Good Projects Managers are often born logical and analytical.”
    If you’re job is to “run” the project and be the sole “throat to choke” then sure, logic probably makes sense. But if you’re going to be a leader who empowers the team to be better, you have to learn to rely much more on relationship and people interactions. Logic doesn’t factor into emotional conversations very well. I’m an art major and fiction writer and I know my ability to tackle problems from a creative angle makes me a better PM.

    Best, Joel BC

  5. Ok, let’s face that all of us try to be good project managers. But leadership and passion can’t be taught within a basic PM training.

    If the PM lacks good leadership – the PM will suffer of acceptance by the stakeholders or team members.

    If the PM has a lack of passion for the job as PM – there will be a prevailing mood that isn’t supporting your project.

    All in all project management isn’t just fun and meetings, it’s hard work. If you want to become a great project manager you need to take the driver seat and take responsibility for all actions required. Even if you don’t like the decision you need to make.

    Take responsibility, tell the team if you’re wrong or mistaken, lead by being a good example and never ask s.th of someone what you would not be willing to invest…

    That could make you a pretty good if not excellent PM.

  6. @Andreas-

    You make some very good points. Yes, a project manager should take responsibility. In one of my older blogs I argue that you have to be responsible, even when you lack authority.

    I agree that you need passion. Any job requires passion. I’ll trade you for a person with 90% passion and 10% skill over a person with 90% expertise and 10% passion any day.

    What I disagree is that you can’t teach “Leadership” and you have to get into the Drivers seat.

    Driver’s Seat- Command and Control doesn’t work: If the US Military is moving away from this (or arguably never used it in many areas) then business shouldn’t either.

    Can’t teach good management or leadership: Absolutely you can. Manager-Tools.com holds up that good management is boring. Regular blocking and tackling, combined with passion, can make great managers. And we don’t have to be perfect, we just have to be better than the 90% of those manager who don’t try.

  7. @Joel,

    yes, you’re right. You can teach leadership skill but you’ll barely find it in basic PM training sessions. Anyway there is a different of putting this methods into action and knowing how you could be doing it better.

    Yes there are times when you need to add more time for discussion within the project team. But there are also times when you need to take the control and tell them to stop discussing. Because sometimes we just run in circles within our debates and don’t focus any longer on the overall goals.

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