“First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” – Aristotle
Is it hard to imagine the first project manager appearing on the scene in Greece and inspiring these words of ancient wisdom? There really is little else that can be said about the role of a project manager – but let’s do so anyway. The role is simple enough – get the job done, on time, within budget and with the resources available. That being so, what are those very special qualities those very special project managers possess and may well have possessed since the dawn of civilization?
Radio & TV pundit Larry Elder said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” You know where you have to reach – the very best project managers have the essential skill to put together a plan that will get you there from where you are right now. Their plans are well thought out, complete and act as a road map to drive the entire project team to the destination.
Most projects have multiple elements and it is not unusual for project managers to have more than one project underway at one time. Despite that there’s only so much money, only so many hands, only so much available infrastructure that the project manager has at his disposal. The truly effective project manager is capable of getting the most out of the resources available even with so many balls in the air all at the same time. This may involve substituting one kind of resource for another, say add more hands if time is short, or move resources from one project to another based on need.
Time Management Ninja
Peter Drucker said, “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” The super PM, of-course, knows that. The need is not just to ensure that the project time lines are met but to make sure that best use is made of the time available. The PM’s task is made that much more complicated because it is not only the time of the team-members that is scarce but perhaps even scarcer is the bandwidth of the project manager. To be effective the PM has to be well aware of how all the members of the team, including himself, are spending their time. The PM has to be a time management expert to make the most of these insights. The objective would be to identify any work habits that need to be changed to ensure that the maximum time is spent on the core tasks that matter.
Mike Tyson had said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” While no one is suggesting the project manager should bust out the boxing gloves it is true that to be effective the PM has to expect the unexpected. The plans they devise have to make ample allowance for those inevitable speed bumps, break-downs and course changes that all project have. The key skill of the project manager is the ability to identify the change, isolate its impact and to move as quickly as possible to a new plan that sets sights firmly on the new objective. The great project manager is distinguished by how nimbly the shift is made from one track to the other without derailing the whole effort.
If a project is delivered on time but not up to the expected quality then there’s not much point, is there? The challenge for our model Project Manager is outlined by Linux Guru Alan Cox when he says, “Everybody in the real world will agree – the moment a project is behind deadline, quality assurance tends to go out the window.” The Project Manager has the skill to ensure that the quality focus is maintained at all times. The guiding philosophy is that while project delivery schedules have to be met, there also has to be a certainty that what is being delivered is of the very highest quality possible.
It’s a tough job at the best of times – project managers need to be great communicators, builders of consensus, people managers and leaders. All these qualities have strong arguments in their favour but if pushed to make a choice we would pick the qualities listed here as being essential to increasing the chances of success. What do all of you champion Project Managers out there think? What quality of yours do you think is most responsible for your success in this profession?