Project Managers are… What!?

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I did a Google search on “Project Managers are” and was surprised with what Google revealed as autosuggestions:


Top results are: Idiots, Responsible for, Useless, and Stupid!  Three out of the four are pretty cynical to put it mildly.  I certainly do not want to be generalized into these negative buckets and I’d bet nether do you!  Here are some qualities a good PM should possess that will help change these stereotypes.

#1: Collaboration – i.e. Playing nice with others – Good PM’s need to spend a lot of time with their team members, SME’s, stakeholders and clients/end users.  If you are sheltering yourself at your desk concentrating on just your own deliverables and not your team’s needs, you will be seen as “useless”. Connect with your team, find out what they need, how you can help.  It will help you develop a greater understanding their portions of the project and how it all comes together.

#2: Communication – More than half of a PM’s responsibility is “being in the know”. Team and status meetings, numerous e-mails, phone calls, coordination and documentation rule most of the day!  Making sure your team is in the know is greatly important as well, the more they understand what is going on with the project, good/bad, the better!

#3: Let the Experts be the Experts – Knowing every trifling detail of everyone’s tasks is not necessary and many PM’s can be seen as micromanagers that nit pick those details!  Project teams do not like PM’s that are over their shoulder questioning their every move.  While it is important to know some of the details of tasks, you must trust your team members and their expertise.  Good PM’s empower! Trust your team’s abilities, help to coordinate their needs, and removing any barriers they have.

#4: Trust and Accountability – As mentioned above, trust is key, but so is accountability.  Trusting is not about being nice, letting mistakes slide, or giving slack, it your level of reliance on a team member’s character and confidence in their abilities.  Giving trust to your team also means they accept being accountable for their tasks and commitments; and holding them accountable demonstrates good leadership.

#5: Process and Documentation – You cannot just “fake it until you make it”.  Effective PM’s determine the project methodology/process from the start and they make sure their team knows it as well. Document along the way so there is no question on the project history that you cannot answer!  It does not have to be difficult, having a process for status reports, communication plans, and scope change management in general will be sufficient for most projects.

#6: Understand what you are doing and why you are doing it! – If you are assigned the “Dig a Hole Project” is your first inclination is to roll up your sleeves, find some strong people with shovels, and tell them to start digging?  After a while, you will soon have some hot, sweaty and tired teammates, that are questioning what they are doing and why they are doing it!  You need to spend a sufficient amount of time understanding the project scope, expectations, and end deliverables and documenting them in your project charter.  Your team, no matter what their roll on the project, should know as well!  Quick experiment; go ask five members of your team: Why are we doing this project?  Are they on the same page?  If not, it’s never too late to regroup!

#7: Show Value and have your Project and Team’s Back – Project Management is not just taking orders and changes from your Stakeholders and executing them on-demand with no consideration to the project plan, schedule, or team. PM’s need to provide value on a project, this includes having your project/team’s “back” when a Stakeholder is asking for out of scope items. Saying “yes” to all changes, without question or assessment, will negatively affect the project and your team morale. Any an all out of scope requests, no matter the size, need to go through the scope change management process before any decision is made.

Anything to add?  Let me know on Twitter @aprelion