What is a Project Manager?

03.08.2011 0

I came across an article recently that talked about how my skill sets were in demand.  It stated “Right now Project Management is a hot profession.”

Great news if you’re a project manager!

But what is a Project Manager?  The title means many things to a diverse range of people.

There are three main personal attributes that to me typify what it means to be a Project Manager:

  1. People ability :  they are good coaches, love to mentor, and have well-honed leadership skills.
  2. Logisticians: They love the challenge of working and pulling a plan together.
  3. Goal and objective oriented:  They measure themselves on their ability to deliver.

They oversee the execution of effort on unique endeavours. Great description?  Not really, but it’s one I think every non-project manager understands.  What’s missing is the project management part.  It is the application of processes and techniques that help to keep the project on track and deliver consistent levels of quality for any products or work results.  What it really is is this: Project management combines the disciplines of budget, schedule, technology and risk with people management.  It unites individuals to perform against a goal in a coordinated, ordered, and consistent way.  Sounds simple but the role is difficult because the opinions of stakeholders are influenced by these three factors:

  1. Methodology is contentious.
  2. Cultural influences impact people management
  3. Business knowledge doesn’t transfer.

Project management navigates these factors.  For example, project managers may have their favourite methods and can weigh-in on ways to properly execute on development, get input on requirements from stakeholders, and define quality or measure and control risks.  However, the best methodology is one that the organization and team can live with, can be performed consistently, and yields the desired results.  This requires the project manager to monitor methods to ensure they are working.

Project managers must also be able to manage political situations and personnel concerns.  In fact this may be the highest area of risk and success – projects are performed by people.  Skills in soliciting feedback, dealing with cultural issues, union requirements, and following human resource practices are key in managing the project.  These must be balanced with technology, milestone deadlines, and other business objectives.

A project cannot be delivered well  without a deep understanding of the business’ issues and needs.  It’s true that methodologies transfer across industries but they must be supplemented by a thorough understanding of the project scope and deliverables and their importance to the organization.  This helps the project manager to make decisions.  A good project manager becomes a “mini-expert” in the business needs the project is addressing, and understands why a particular solution has value for producing project deliverables.

Project managers who watch for these common factors are more likely to successfully deliver their projects.

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