Meet Your Perfect Project Manager and Five Traits They Must Have
How do we know that this is that very person? The very project manager capable of making your project a success?
If the issue is vital for you, you have undoubtedly read lots of clever books on achieving the maximum efficiency with the project (in any field); and moreover, spared no expenses and time for visiting master classes and workshops.
But it turns out, that there is quite a number of smart ideas and concepts suggested, and in reality, both the client and the team often face the situation when deadlines are missed, requirements are not met, and the budget has to be increased, sometimes more than once.
According to PMI (Institute for Project Management) research results published in 2017 Pulse of the Profession report, only 69% of the projects succeeded to meet their initial goals (compared with 62% in 2016). And only 57% of projects were completed within budget (as compared to 53% in 2016).
We believe the level of unfulfilled goals (31%) and budget overruns (43%) is quite high, but some optimism is inspired by the fact that compared to 2016, the percentage of successfully implemented projects has increased.
We in Umbrella IT are confident, that about 80% of the project success depends on effective management and, accordingly, on competence and skills of the IT project manager (PM).
According to the research published by Wellingtone, the most challenging problem in project management defined by respondents was "poorly trained project managers" (more than 30%).
Source: The State of Project Management 2017 Survey by Wellingtone Project Management and the APM PMO SIG
WHAT MAKES A GOOD PROJECT MANAGER WHO CAN BE ENTRUSTED WITH YOUR BABY-PROJECT?
Let’s clear out together.
Let's start with the most obvious thing: to lead a professional team the PM must understand the process inside out. And not just understand, but be able to answer basic questions and set the questions to the team, know the logic of processes and constantly go into technical details of working on a particular project.
- the PM himself will feel insecure communicating both with the client and the team because he has no sufficient domain knowledge of the project;
- without an adequate technical background PM will not be able to assess accurately time limits, the scope of works, accuracy of the decisions taken and their potential impact;
- the client will not fully trust the PM as an authorized person, for fear of risks related to technical issues beyond the PM's competence;
- the team will not see the PM as a person able to make decisions on technical issues and will treat his instructions with a critical eye.
Apart from the technical expertise, the PM needs skills of communication, planning, risk and problem management, as well as teamwork organizing skills.
Simply put, not every good technical specialist can become a top project manager, but every PM should be a technical person.
2. COMMUNICATION SKILLS
So, we have a technically competent project manager.
In the process of work, he will find himself at the intersection of all vital communication channels: the client’s relations with the team, communication within the team, transfer of requirements and instructions from the client to the team, any questions or clarifications from the team to the client and so on, therefore, his every decision and action affects all participants of the project.
On the one hand, this is a great responsibility not everyone can cope with. On the other hand, a competent and experienced PM has a number of levers and tools in hands to effectively implement the project.
PM shall be able to:
- communicate and find common ground with all persons involved;
- speak and write correctly, be able to word and explain in understandable terms;
- listen and hear both the team and the client (empathy should come in very handy for the PM);
- identify and formulate the information to be reported to the client;
- adequately present the information, even if it is negative; never hesitate to communicate timely bad news without leaving it too late and to propose solutions.
Competency and communication skills are often not enough. The great project manager must have critical and strategic thinking and certain experience. Otherwise, any problem will be unexpected, and any deviation of deadlines, work scope or budget can become a serious test both for the PM and the whole team, and eventually won’t make the client happy.
3. STRATEGIC VISION AND CRITICAL PERCEPTION
This does happen: a technically competent project manager, who has established an excellent relationship with the team and makes the client happy, may feel at a loss in the face of unexpected problems. As a result, the task is not completed on time, the client is disappointed, and further work on the project continues in quite a different atmosphere.
To become a good project manager, one shall be able in most case to anticipate non-standard situations and even having failed to foresee to get hold of himself, calm down and make a decision, and then to get both the team and the customer prepared for the situation suggesting the way out.
What is required for that?
Strategic vision: the ability to see the situation as a whole and plan actions in such a way that the set targets are achieved. At the same time, the good PM always keeps the track of events and stays alert.
If there is any risk to fail the deadlines, the good PM will realize it early on and certainly notify the client about it. He does not need to cut it close since he always has a plan B.
Critical thinking: the ability to cast doubt on any judgments (even one's own), to analyze and apply the result to the existing situation, accordingly.
The successful project manager does not always agree with the team, but critically evaluates both the time required to complete the tasks and every idea.
The same applies to the client. If for example, the customer insists on using certain technologies (Node.js, Angular, etc.) for the development, the PM will try to understand the root cause of such requirements. It is likely that having assessed the situation from the point of view of his experience and having consulted with the team, he will be able to avoid unnecessary and laborious tasks, and offer the stakeholders his vision of achieving the goal in the best way.
No matter how great the PM is in the strategy, he will not be able to implement his plans without the team and the customer. All involved parties should interact within the project, and the task of the PM is to organize and support such collaboration.
4. TEAM WORK SKILLS
Do you know what often keeps PM from growing into a better project manager?
A desire to be good for the team or the client (or for everyone). The PM shall not try to be liked by everyone, he shall be a leader, unbiased and just to every project participant. His primary goal should be to launch the project successfully through joint efforts of all involved parties.
We know that the perfect PM, described in this article, possesses all the basic qualities of the job. However, in order to make the project a success, there are still a few other factors missing. And they refer to teamwork. The team, in this case, includes not only developers, designers, layout designers, and testers, but also the client.
The client’s involvement in the project development multiplies the chances of the project for success.
Just think, why you would refuse to discuss details of your project with the contractor?
- When you do not need the project at all, and just do not want to waste time, or
- when the project is important, but you are not quite the person to discuss it with (this means, there are other stakeholders, and it would be much more useful for the team to communicate with them rather than with you).
In both cases, things don’t look good for the project, and the PM must understand this and promptly settle this issue.
Communication with the good PM will always imply regular reports, questions, and feedbacks.
The good PM’s reports will inspire you to answer or set a question, because:
- has no formal come-offs or cut and dry standard phrases;
- the PM will remind you of vacations and days off or changes in the work schedule;
- the PM will tell you in advance about plans and upcoming important events to sync the plans of the team and the client;
If, due to several days off agreed in advance, the report looks unconvincing, the information like: "This week we worked part-time as there were days off we had told you about" will be useful for you. So that you will no longer think that the team has done only a small amount of work during the week, and will know what results to expect.
This is just a routine question rather than emergency situation: but if the PM fails to arrange the information exchange properly, it can turn into mutual discontent and negative perception.
- All definitions and descriptions will be clear and unambiguous. The good PM will always clarify any phrases that can be interpreted in various ways. Similarly, he will clarify your instructions and wishes to convey their meaning to the team correctly;
If the report says "The function is ready," you can understand this information in your own way, possibly not the same way as the PM.
But if you read: "The function is done, we are testing it now on the development server, and in a day we will give it to you to test" or "The function is done, but we would like you to check its current state to make sure the business logic is right," you see clearly what the team is doing and in what sequence.
The good PM is a person who makes a project predictable owing to the process being manageable, clear and transparent to all participants.
In other words, basically, the PM provides predictability and stability for the client. This is exactly what so many projects lack, isn’t this?
An ideal project is a myth. No one is guaranteed against the unforeseen circumstances, problems or human factor issues that can lead to the challenges unpredictable even for the most experienced PM. Therefore, the next vital trait of the good PM is never to be afraid of problems and be able to become concentrated under any emergency conditions and find the best way out.
The good PM is not afraid of critical situations, and even in case of fear or doubt, he understands that any problem can be solved: by having a talk, giving a warning or coming up with an alternative.
If the problem arises in the course of running the project, our perfect PM will not detach himself from the customer and the team. First, he will find a solution, and then the causes and the guilty.
For some reason (unknown to us), the product development is two months behind the schedule. The PM does not conceal the fact that such a problem exists and tells you about it.
What do you feel?
Panic? Anger? For sure, you have a storm of ideas: you need to look for another team, or you need to add more developers. But no decisions are recommended to be taken in this state of mind since it is unlikely to have a good result.
What does our perfect PM do?
He will not leave you alone with bad news. And even more so, he will not take a defensive position. The best way to handle this situation is to find a rational solution and work together to implement it.
"We need to shift the deadlines for 4 weeks. We can leave out some less critical functions and launch the app without them. We will continue with them later. During this time, the product will be used, and after we launch the new features, the users will notice that the app constantly gets better. What do you think about this idea? If it sounds reasonable, I will prepare a detailed plan. We will check which functions we do not need for the launch, exclude them for now and see how much time can be saved."
As a result, the storm in your head slowly calms down, you see a beacon to reach, realizing that you are not going to reach it alone. The work continues at a normal pace, the product quality remains adequate, the deadlines shift, but with minimal losses.
And most importantly, you start to trust the PM and the team. Is this not an ideal case?
PERFECT PM: MYTH OR REALITY?
Now you can answer this question. The perfect PM shall be as follows:
- technically savvy and understands well what exactly his team does;
- possessing proper communication skills, which allow him to establish contact with all participants of the process. Regardless of the delicate psyche of the developers and the client's sincere concerns about the fate of his product;
- able to think strategically, possessing planning skills and approaching critically the decisions made within the project;
- able to organize teamwork, ensure involvement and awareness of all parties;
- being not afraid of problems, clear-headed in critical situations and able to find best solutions.
As you see, the mission is challenging, but not impossible. And we have no doubts that the perfect PM does exist, although belongs to rare species. We are lucky: our team PMs know exactly how to be the best project manager. Would you like to check it?
Contact Umbrella IT right now!
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