Nuggets for good project management, by experts
To be a good project manager, especially if you are in IT, you need a certain amount of technical know-how. You also need a variety of non-technical abilities that can help you navigate the challenges inherent in project management, from scope creep and delays to conflicts among team members.
The seven soft skills every project manager needs are the abilities to listen, be organized, proactive, detail oriented, communicate effectively, delegate, anticipate problems and be flexible.
“With every successful project comes a project manager who listens,” says Jelissa Brooks, project manager, Creative Juice, a graphic design & Web design agency. “Listening is the key to learning and engaging with both your clients and your team. Listening allows you to ask the right questions to get to know your client and clients’ needs, which is crucial when developing a scope and plan that helps deliver a product that meets client expectations with minimal project revision.”
To be a good project manager, “you have to be organised,” says Jose Tijam, senior project manager, Health Net/Centene. “There are a lot of moving parts in projects, and that’s why organizations need project managers. Keeping track of a multitude of tasks, issues, decisions, action items [and] milestones, while ensuring resources remain accountable, is a skill good project managers must have.”
According to John J. Glick, owner, Glick Brothers Roofing, “a top skill project managers must possess is organization. When you have a large amount of projects going on at one time, it is important to keep information about the project accurate and up to date.
“As the project manager, it is your job to make sure everything runs smoothly. Having all of the projects’ details laid out correctly allows the rest of your team to get the project done in a timely manner and as promised. Not only will your clients be happy with the results, but your company and its services will receive a positive reputation in return.”
Also, “project managers need to be proactive,” says Rosie Brown, creative project manager, Sterling Communications, a tech PR agency, stressing that “this word is thrown around a lot in management books and performance reviews, but this is an essential skill for those in charge of leading and organizing account teams, programs, and everything in between.
He added that “there’s nothing more dangerous to a project’s well-being than a project manager who has become complacent. Project managers with initiative don’t wait to be asked for schedules, budget breakdowns or status updates. Instead, they light the way for their teams and are always prepared to tell them what’s ahead.”
A manager must be detail-oriented. The Vice President of Marketing for Redbooth, a project management and collaboration platform Charles Studt pointed out that “the detail orientation that drives your spouse/significant other crazy will make you tremendously successful as a project manager.
“Your ability to let no detail too small fall through the cracks while understanding how they all fit together is what keeps the project on track. But conversely, don’t let the details overwhelm you so that you lose sight of the big picture business outcomes your project is intended to produce.”
The Programme Manager of The Nerdery, Ted Carlson noted that “a project manager’s primary role is as a communicator. No skill is more important, which provides custom software design and development. Clear, consistent communication [is essential for project success]. Artful project managers make it a priority to understand their various project members and stakeholders, and they tailor communication style and channel to best fit and reach those audiences – [and] keep everyone informed.”
To Ginny Woolridge of ArcherPoint, which specialises in business solutions built on Microsoft Dynamics NAV, “you cannot do everything yourself. You have to delegate work to others… [and] know [your] teams’ strengths, as well as their current workloads, in order to delegate properly.”
The Director of Product Management, Work & Co, a digital design and technology company, Rachel Bogan said “as a product manager, you always need to anticipate what could go wrong, what your clients needs, or what your team is going to be taking on next. If you don’t [think several moves ahead and] have a little bit of fear that you may miss something, you probably will.”
Having capacity for flexibility – and keeping calm under pressure is another quality required of a good manager
“Scope changes, feedback isn’t always as positive as you’d like, and sometimes you just have to go back to the drawing board,” says Pete Shelly, lead project manager, Huemor, a design and marketing agency.
“No matter how much planning we do, a little chaos is inevitable in a high-pressure industry with tight deadlines and astronomical client expectations. Being able to roll with the punches – [and maintain] your composure – helps your team feel more at ease so they can do their best work,” he added.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a business and technology writer and a contributor to CIO.com.