Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seven Traits a Project Manager Must Possess ...

While readinf the November 2009 newsletter from allPM.com, I came across an interesting perspective regarding strong Project Manager traits ... definitely food for thought ...

Who is responsible for dealing with the soft skill dilemmas? The demanding nature of a project propels the project manager to a leadership position the very day he is placed in that role. He becomes the fulcrum of the project, the one person who is looked to by all stakeholders. It takes a colossal amount of effort, and an equal amount of varying skills to complete a project successfully. Most project management trainings and courses focus on the methodology and principles that need to be employed to manage a project. These typically incorporate planning and estimating techniques, drilling down a work breakdown structure, what is change control so on and so forth. These are important but what is overlooked is the ‘softer’ side involved in projects. Resources are the most valuable asset on a project but they are the most complex and the most difficult to deal with. Interactions can get very complex when meshed with personal egos and jurisdictions.

Skill # 1 - Team Builder: A project brings together very quickly people of diverse backgrounds - social, cultural and with varying skill sets for a certain period of time. More often not enough time is given for team dynamics to play out and the project manager has to bring the entire team together for a common purpose. So a project manager is a team builder who gets a diverse working party to function cohesively.

Skill # 2 - Planner: Every team member comes to the project for his need and looks at the project typically from his perspective. In contrast the project manager needs to have a holistic view of the project and also understand the details that compose the big picture. So a project manager is a planner adept at understanding the gross details and the finer elements.

Skill # 3 - Salesman: Often the project manager has to deal with team members who are unwilling to perform project management tasks or even being a part of the project. Not to forget management that is unenthusiastic about the uncertainties involved in planning. So a project manager is a seller who can make people see the advantage of using a structured approach to completing projects despite some shortcomings.

Skill # 4 - Motivator: Only a handful of projects operate under the best of circumstances. Most begin with several hurdles - unrealistic deadlines, insufficient funds, and not enough resources available to complete all the tasks. And, if resources are available they do not have the right competency. As a result tasks are continuously monitored, prioritized and then reprioritized to complete what was set out in the beginning. The project manager has to be a leader capable of leading his team through ever changing uncertainties. What makes it more challenging is the fact that the project manager has little or ambiguous authority over his resources unless he works in a projectized organization. So a project manager is a motivator with limited influence over those who work for him but has to keep them focused in dire circumstances.

Skill # 5 - Innovator: As a project goes through its life cycle issues are inevitable. Things never go as planned – resources walk away from their assignments, requirements are not accurately defined, testing activities do not get completed as planned, etc. The setbacks are endless. The onslaught is perpetual and the project manager wades his way finding instant solutions. So a project manager is an innovator who has to constantly come up with new ideas to get rid of obstacles.

Skill # 6 - Collaborator: Another constant in all projects is change. Stakeholders alter their minds, business and technology scenarios are constantly changing, etc. These have an impact on the project’s deadline and cost. The project manager has to manage expectations and pull the project back on its course. So a project manager is a collaborator who can negotiate with all parties and make everybody comfortable with the situation.

Skill # 7 - Communicator: Stakeholders, be it team members, sponsors, subject matter experts, etc., are always anxious about what is taking place in the project – what happened, what is happening and what will happen. The project manager should be able to converse with ease across the board about status, issues and solutions and put minds at ease. Excellent oral and written skills are becoming very important in current times; the era of virtual organizations and project teams. So a project manager is a communicator who can understand and speak with all stakeholders effectively.

In a nutshell it is essential for a project manager to be multi talented. Different types of soft skills come in handy at different phases of the project life cycle. An experienced project manager knows the right time to use such skills for the benefit of the project. It is very difficult to teach these skills and that is why most project management courses do not focus a great deal on developing such talent. But the situation is changing as companies are realizing that only the best in class processes cannot deliver successful projects. Projects are delivered by people and their attitude and perception can have a mighty impact on the success of the project. Most times teams have inbuilt resistance or their own agendas. So despite the best execution of project management principles several projects fail. On the contrary, if the project manager can transform the energy of the team into a positive synchronous output within the project management process and structure framework, any project can be delivered successfully against all odds.

Thoughts ?

© 2009 allPM.com

Author: Charanya Girish, a project management consultant is a certified PMP with over 17 years of experience. During her career she has lead successfully several projects and programs of varying sizes, set up PMOs & has been involved with portfolio management and strategic planning. A trained facilitator she is known for her excellent oral and written skills. She has presented at numerous conferences and has publications to her credit. She is an active volunteer of the PMI Great Lakes Chapter, Women in Project Management SIG and the PMO SIG.

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