— 29 November 2005 —

1 of 10 Ways to be a Better Project Manager

I met with a Project Manager (PM) recently and was quite refreshed by his outlook toward his job. It made me think of all the PMs I have worked with over the years; what made some good, some bad, and some exceptional. I wrote down 10 things (because who doesn’t like lists with 10 things?) I think are the most important attributes a person should have to be a good PM. Put them all together, add some experience, and you too can be on your way to being an exceptional PM.

Actually, a lot of these attributes are good to have regardless what you do in life, and they certainly find a good home in both the Information Technology and Business worlds. Especially if you work in both worlds at the same time.

Of the 10 attributes there are only two which PMs are typically rewarded or fired over: bring it in on time and under budget. Ha! Those may be the only things the business thinks it is paying for, but focusing only on those will make you a bad PM. The list follows, relatively, a project life cycle. Other than that there isn’t any specific order. So let’s get to it. Attribute 1 of 10 is…

Cruise Director

When the project begins, there will often be people assigned who have never worked together before. There are also the people who had the idea that kicked off the project in the first place. Don’t forget the people who gave over a pile of cash to have the work done. And lots of people will be impacted by what you make. Your job is to make sure each voice is heard and that everyone gets along nicely. This is probably the biggest time sink, next to scheduling, there is on a project.

There’s nothing else for it. You have to sit down with each person individually, or at the most in very small groups made up of people with similar agendas. And “agenda” is a key word here. The charter of a project may define what it is you are going to build, and you may have agreement on paper to that point, but when you have humans involved there always seem to be as many agendas as people. This attribute could easily be called Agenda Manager. It continues to boggle my mind that so many people are not all that interested in a successful project, but rather personal success.

If you don’t get the face time, some person who seems to have no impact on your agenda will come out of the woodwork at the least opportune time and slow you down. Getting face-to-face time with people can diffuse potential frustrations and make you aware of possible road blocks in the future. And by road block I mean someone who decides to just not do work.

In the end, you are acting as the project’s Cruise Director. Help everyone get along, keep everyone from jumping ship (unless you have to throw them overboard; see upcoming attribute “Hard Ass”), and make sure that there are a lot of things for people to be involved with on your voyage. Happy employees work better. And some times all it takes to make someone happy is listening to their needs.

Like I said, this is time consuming, but it is also really easy. Unless you are an introvert. :)

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