You don’t need a Project Manager! Right?

Isn’t that just another position to fill, another drain on the company’s finances? You could probably do most of the work yourself. The short answer, sure, you could absolutely take on the additional responsibilities or spread those responsibilities amongst the other team members. But in the end, if there is a PM in place, it could save you time and money.

So, from start to finish, what can and should a PM be providing? Below is the list I assembled while sitting down and reviewing my own project management experience. Each of these could easily be their own separate blog topic. But, for the sake of answering your question in a timely fashion, just a brief statement will be made about each. They are listed in alphabetical order to emphasize that they are all of equal importance.

  1. Accountability – Whether it’s great news or dire circumstances, whether it’s their fault or the fault of some natural disaster, the one that should be accountable for all aspects of the project is the PM. A good PM has the strength of leadership to bear this mantle.
  2. Budget/Financial – From beginning to end, the PM’s hands need to be involved in the budget; even if there is a separate department tracking the project’s finances. Note: the PM should not be looking for areas to save costs here. That should be done in Task and Milestone Tracking. If the PM is engaged in the project, it is in the budget where they look to see how their effective management of the project has saved money.
  3. Communication – Other than regular reporting, a project manager should be the one you go to when you want answers. From top to bottom, the PM should be communicating with everyone. It is through communication that they steer the project through to its completion.
  4. Coordination – The PM should always be the bridge between any two individuals, groups, and or departments. They act as liaison for the project at all times as they are the ambassador of the project, not just the representative. Through their example, the rest of the team can then become representatives.
  5. Familiarity – A PM does not necessarily have to have intimate knowledge of the project type though it helps a great deal. What they should be familiar with is the effective use of leadership qualities to complete the projects set of goal oriented steps efficiently through engagement.
  6. Foresight – A good PM will anticipate and while there is no crystal ball to show the bumps ahead, they should have in-place adequate measures to ensure that when those bumps do come, there is no delay in the project, only response.
  7. Listening – The PM is going to be doing a lot of talking but at their core, they should have great listening skills. For it is only after listening will they be able to communicate from a position of knowledge and strength.
  8. Managing the Project Team – This aligns with the ability to delegate and it’s not always available, but if the project manager has the time and the resources it’s good if they can pick their own team. This ties the PM more to the accountability of the project.
  9. Organization – This is another way for the PM to communicate. At any given moment they should be aware of where the project was, where it is, and where it’s going. Their organization will lead to an organized team.
  10. Perspective – When a PM enters the project they should be bringing their own perspective. As the project progresses, they will be garnering perspective and when the project is finished, they should be reflecting to bring perspective to the next project. The goal here is that they have the ability to see things others don’t. To see past the immediate situation in front of them and understand what possible solutions might bring after any given hurdle is past. A good project manager will have eyes and ears on to macro while understanding the micro.

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You’re not just hiring or putting into place a project manager, you’re hiring an engaged leader who through the effective use of these qualities will efficiently navigate project’s goal oriented steps. Steps required for a successful and timely completion of your project. So, think about whether or not you need a project manager, they should bring to the table a lot more than you realize.

 

Afterthoughts:

Check out my previous blog post: Engage in Project Management to be an Effective Leader and Do You Need a Project Management Office (PMO)? They both makes good connecting points.

Engage in Project Management to be an Effective Leader

What the hell does that mean? Before I answer, I want to define a couple things. First, what is Project Management? The Project Management Institute defines it as: “the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently.” And WhatIs.com defines it as” “a methodical approach to planning and guiding project processes from start to finish.” There is no set-in-stone definition for Project Management so, for me it’s: the effective use of leadership qualities to complete a set of goal oriented steps efficiently through engagement. By breaking my definition down piece by piece, you can engage and be an effective leader.

Effective Engagement

I’m going to combine two  words from my definition to make a point. Engagement, to participate and be involved at all levels and effective, which for this conversation, is completing the goal oriented steps in a manner that will create the most value for the project’s end result. Australia’s state of Victoria does a great job at outlining the benefits of being effectively engaged which leads to:

  • better project outcomeBenefits
  • better relationships with community
  • enhanced reputation for your organisation
  • increased understanding of community issues
  • better partnerships and networks

The community in your project is everyone from regulatory agencies to the customers who will benefit from the project’s completion. The partnerships/networks applies to those relationships that are built as the project takes place. These relationships can be relied upon for support during the next project.

Efficient Project Management

Simply, efficiency is doing something with a minimum amount of time and effort. An article in Computerworld combines efficient with project management and says: “to be an efficient project manager means you need to streamline your process to help ensure success for the project, the team, and the customer.” The customer in each and every project should always be those who will benefit from the project’s completion. No matter the project, there is some individual person that will hopefully benefit from what you and your team are doing and that is always who you should keep in mind as you efficiently manage your project.

Leadership Qualities

There are many qualities the make a leader, in 2012 Forbes listed their Top Ten Qualities That Make a Great Leader.

  1. HonestyTop-10 (1)
  2. Ability to Delegate
  3. Communication
  4. Sense of Humor
  5. Confidence
  6. Commitment
  7. Positive Attitude
  8. Creativity
  9. Intuition
  10. Ability to Inspire

There are many more that could be argued for and against; the great thing about leadership qualities is that most of them can be taught or learned. A whole blog series of could be written on leadership qualities so the ones listed here are meant to show that to be truly engaged in a project, means to be engaged on many different levels.

Wrapping it all up.

When you’re the project manager, of any type of project, you step into the role of leader. From the people who put you in charge to the project’s team, they will all look to you, or should be looking to you throughout all steps of the project. And if they are not looking to you, then you’re probably not engaged. So, check to see if you’re engaged, because unless you’re engaged, you will not be efficient. And when you do get engaged, then you can truly become effective as a leader.

 

 

 

A firm handshake and solid eye contact begets respect.

This is something I have known for a very long time and I guess perhaps it was instilled by my father: it is the power of firm handshake while maintaining eye contact. I’ve experienced individuals that do not have a firm handshake and they are some of the most competent people I know. But, a firm handshake is the foundation of trust without words. That, coupled with solid eye contact can lay the groundwork for a strong working relationship.

Men who are reading this also need to realize that this applies to when you’re dealing with women also. Of course there are women out there that do not welcome the firm embrace of a strong handshake. But, you must assume that a women involved with the project, in a professional setting, are not such women and you will find that they respond in kind to your firm handshake. Buy shaking a women’s hand with the same firmness (not force) and maintaining eye contact you are signifying to them that they are an equal.

When I go out to the project location, I can tell just by the way individuals shake my hand (after we’ve established that initial foundation of trust) who’s working alongside me in a team effort for the good of the project. These are the individuals you can go to in a pinch when things are difficult or you need some extra effort out of them or the team. I’ve also seen this in my personal life when after a long time of not seeing someone, I get that firm handshake and solid eye contact, that this individual felt it was good to see me and no such words were ever exchanged.

This topic might be considered “played out” but its importance cannot be stressed enough. We live in a digital age where people we interact with are either just down the hall or half way around the globe. In either instance, the opportunity to shakes someone’s hand seems to get less and less every year. That makes this gesture even more important as it establishes a bond that you just can’t achieve over the internet.

After writing this, I read quite a few online pieces that reference this topic specifically and I found two that I feel really capture what I have been briefly discussing. The first was my favorite in encapsulating the topic as a whole and the second does a good job in reference the shaking of a women’s hand. So, pay attention to your next handshake with the above words in mind, you’ll notice a difference. I’ll conclude by quoting from the first online article which really struck a chord with me: “If only my father knew that one of the most important lessons he ever taught me about growing up and becoming a man was how to exude dignity, confidence and respect through the simple action of shaking someone’s hand.

 

The foundation of any project, the people.

I’m going to begin by talking about the individuals that make any project happen, whether it’s the employees of your same company or the contractors and sub-contractors that are necessary to the project’s scope. I ran into a situation where we needed a specific trade provided by a specific contractor and that need was dire. For starters, he wanted in, and we wanted him there but there was some legal paperwork that proved to be a hurdle. It took every bit of a long week but afterwards, all was in place and we had the green light to get him working on the project that is currently running round the clock, seven days a week.

After everything was in place, he told me he wasn’t available until after the weekend. I thought: “What? I just fought to get you on the job site and now you’re telling me you can’t make it?” I had work outlined for him for over a week now and all of the sudden he can’t be there. I pressed a little harder and he pressed back: “I can’t be there”. I never asked why, I just listened, accepted and resigned myself to find another way to get us through the weekend.

I can’t say that I gave that contractor the right to go take care of family business because if I pressed, he would probably would have told me “too bad” and that following week we might not have had him at all. But rather, I found another way. It turned out that the reason the contractor couldn’t be there was because his son was playing the lead in a local theater production and family was coming in to be a part of the special moment. I didn’t find this out until later that weekend so when he finally arrived the following week, I paused in the action long enough to ask how it went and that I was happy to hear of his son’s success. His exuberance at making the time for his family showed in his performance that week and since then, he’s been after our to-do list with some serious ferocity.

When there seems to be no answer, that’s when you dig deeper and find an answer. One will always present itself; you have to look for it though and it takes effort. I have yet to run into an incident where there was no other way; there is always a way. The people who put a project management in that position put them there for a reason, to find a way to get the project done no matter the obstacle but it should not be at other people’s expense.

Translated into everyday life, we need to make time for the things that are important. Making time for the things in life that really matter like family will result in a more rewarding experience with the things in life that matter a little bit less, like the project.  There are a lot of project managers out there that feel they already practice what I’m talking about, but there are a lot more employees on that same project that know otherwise. I’ve been on both sides of a project so I feel confident in saying: think about what you’re doing for your team members, if you think you’re doing enough, you’re probably just scratching the surface.

 

Project Management is not necessarily what you think it is.

I’m a Project Manager by task, but by title I’m a Mechanical Engineer for a geothermal power company. As projects come and go, I’m finding similarities between many of them in unexpected places; and not just from project to project in the renewable energy industry. Before this, I was a project manager for an architecture firm and the difference between the two industries is pretty vast. But the concepts of managing a project and the interaction with the people behind them stay relatively the same.

In this blog, I will be exploring to do’s and don’ts from a “live action” perspective. I’m currently at the beginning stages of an extended project and it’s my first experience with this type of project and the learning curve has been steep and extraordinarily fast. I will not be getting technical, nor will I be getting into the specifics of the project.

The goal of this blog is not to tout the project, but rather find the common threads between all project managing experiences from varying industries to even situations in daily life. For we are all project managers of our life, of our families, and of our careers. Thus, instances outside of the typical project management box become very applicable when the thinking shifts towards this type of perspective.

I will be tying it all together, from the job site to the office; from small teams to the company’s impact as a whole and again, I will be doing this real time. As I come across instances in my day-to-day that apply, I’m going to share them with you. I’m looking forward to your comments and how you might personally handle the situation differently. Or, if you see something you can use I’d love to hear how it went when implemented. Even criticisms are very welcome (especially criticisms); if you see me misspeak about a particular items, please, by all means correct me. I’m using this as a learning tool toward a better handling of projects and people and I’m sure there will be a few laughs along the way.