So – What does a good project manager do?

A project manager manages a project.  And a project is a body of work that has an identifiable start and stop.   A project is put in place to deliver something in a specific amount of time.  It could be put in place to deliver new technology, an update to a process to handle returns, a fabulous event, an integration or disintegration of systems, etcetera, etcetera.  

Oftentimes, the project in and of itself will be filled with all kinds of challenges.  What part of life isn’t?  A good project manager can make the ride less bumpy and the experience less chaotic.  A not so good project manager can make you want to throw your hands in the air and wave them like….. You get it.

What is it that a good project manager is doing?  A good project manager takes an idea, oftentimes nebulous, and clearly articulates it with a scope.  They flesh that scope out into a specific plan.  They pull together the routines and structure to help the team deliver against that plan, keeping in mind that every team is different.  They approach every day fresh and new, determining the best way to support getting the team across the finish line – without leaving bodies strewn along the sidelines.  An inexperienced or an inflexible or an insecure project manager often lets the project happen to him or her.  They go with the status quo.  They do what they are asked to do or what they are used to doing or what they are comfortable with doing, often without considering if it is what is best for the team in this specific circumstance.  

Yes – each project varies.  But, they do not vary on the basic components: Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor/Control, and Close.   The project varies on the nature of the project, the culture of the company or department, and the team of people involved.  A good project manager asks herself – “What does it mean to initiate a project, plan a project, execute, monitor, and control a project – in this specific set of circumstances”?  

I think that an unstoppable, successful project manager has the following skillset and can be effective anywhere: 

  • Has a high degree of flexibility and adaptability to changes
  • Is a clear communicator
  • Actively listens
  • Is persuasive
  • Can function in an ambiguous environment with ill-defined relationships
  • Has the ability to manage and resolve conflict relationships
  • Knows how to prioritize
  • Has a predisposition to action

Honing these skills is a continuous work in progress, engagement by engagement.  So, even though projects have a definitive start and end, a good project manager does not.  He or she is always in movement, always growing – trying to get just a little bit better at delivering quality products, processes, and services on-time and on the budget that meets the customer’s expectations.     

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