Most project managers are pretty good or they just aren’t able to stay in the profession long. Poor project management usually leads to failure and failure is only tolerated for so long before you get replaced on enough projects that you get shown the door.
And a good project manager can be a good project manager for a long, long time. Look at me….I think I’m a good project manager and I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years. I wouldn’t call myself a great one though (although if any of my past or current clients feel that way I’m ok with it). But what makes that good project manager a great one? Let’s look at what I consider to be six factors or characteristics that separate the good project managers from the great ones. And I’m not saying that most or all good project managers lack these qualities or practices. Not at all. It’s just that they seem to be more apparent in the great project managers. Let’s consider…
1) Project Customer Comes First
The great ones put the customer first – at least in my opinion. I don’t necessarily prescribe to the notion that the customer is always right. In fact, in the project management world, the customer is often wrong. Wrong about the solution, wrong about requirements, wrong about the need for the project and wrong about their own business processes. But that doesn’t mean the customer isn’t the PM’s first concern. It just means we always need to make them first and dig to make sure we know their real need, know the requirements that need to be in place, know their business processes, and know what solution is needed to meet their expectations and end user needs. Focus on the customer first and if your own management takes issues with that, you’ll have to make some tough decisions and possibly negotiations…but don’t lose sight of what is best for the customer.
2) Project Manager Integrity is Vital
According to the dictionary, this is the definition of integrity: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” I know we all must sometimes make promises that we aren’t sure we can keep – sometimes just to make a customer happy or keep them confident in our ability to deliver. We may promise that we will deliver ‘x’ by Thursday. I know that it is a hard and fast deadline, then we better do it. However, many good project managers know that an individual task date like that can often slide by a day or two or three and everything will still be ok. Great project managers come through on time, when promised, and with quality more often than not and more often than their peers. I’m not saying they don’t still make promises that they can’t specifically meet, but they handle themselves professionally and discuss deadlines and provide key information to their customer when it is needed and accurate explanations that will make the customer aware of where things stand at any given point in time. And their reputation precedes them…everyone expects that what they say and promise is accurate and in their best interests.
3) Project Scope Management Makes a PM Great
Next up…scope management. Yes, two dirty words, right? Scope management, change management, change orders, change requests, requirements management. Some of the hardest things to do and some of the biggest areas of conflict between project manager and customer. Good project managers watch scope, manage it well and put changer orders together when work is requested that falls outside of the agreed upon scope of the project. Great project managers do all that, but make some calls on what battles to fight, what change requests to use as leverage to make certain things happen and to negotiate favorable outcomes, and they know what to give away without going back to senior management over and over and over again.