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What Makes a Good Project Manager?

written by: Linda Richter • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 3/3/2011

What makes a good project manager? You’ve got to have a social personality with a flair for creativity and versatility. You also have to organize a team of people with diverse skills, plan a strategy and a budget, anticipate risks, and manage conflict. And don’t forget the patience!

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    Be a People Person

    Puzzle by Salvatore Vuono on FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

    You are the project manager. You will know all the parts of the project, but you will not be doing any of them. Instead, you will be supervising and coordinating the work of others. To this end, an effective project manager must know how to motivate people. Respect their capabilities; each person has a skill set or an area of expertise. You’ve also got to get upper management involved in the project so that it will have administrative support and budgeting. So what makes a good project manager? You have to know your project, love it, and promote it.

    Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Puzzle, by Salvatore Vuono

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    Don’t Go for the Short-Cuts

    It’s unwise to invoke time efficiency as a priority. The basic principles for effective project management came from statistical engineers like W. Edwards Deming, but his most important contributions did not result from standing by with a stopwatch.

    Deming’s work attracted industrial interest when he boosted the public’s preference for Ford Motor Company’s Japanese product over its American counterpart. He persistently coaxed efforts until results exceeded job specifications. That attention to detail took time and patience.

    The best project managers avoid going for the short cuts. Put time into planning your project, and the end results will validate your efforts. Consider the risks along the way. Break your project down into chronologically ordered steps. Whenever you recognize that one of those steps is too big, break it down further. Plan a strategy utilizing a project management spreadsheet to help you identify steps, staffing, and budgeting. You can find an Excel spreadsheet in Bright Hub’s Media Gallery. Document changes to your original plan by notating them on your spreadsheet.

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    Share Your Vision

    sxc.hu, business, by ilco 

    Once you’ve identified the project, you’ve got to define it for your project team. What is the end goal? How much time will it take? How will you measure whether the project succeeded?

    You can write your goals succinctly and communicate them to your team members, but you’ve also got to speak to their creativity. Find a way to inspire them by helping them to see your vision. Write up a little monologue and practice it. Anticipate talking points. Then begin talking it up whether you’re just walking down the hall with team members, spending a few minutes before a meeting, or just going through the cafeteria line with them. Post signs or pictures on your team’s conference room wall. Give the project a slogan. Create a powerful but brief PowerPoint presentation and send it to everyone.

    Image credit: sxc.hu, business, by ilco

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    Overcome Hurdles by Focusing on Issues

    Crystallize issues that arise by having a brainstorming session. Assemble everyone and ask them to submit ideas to resolve issues. Write down every idea. You can take this in a couple directions: Have each person cast two votes on issues, and ask the team to focus on the issue that gets the most votes. You can also have everyone cast five votes on various issues, and whenever you get three or more people voting on an issue, assign them to form a subcommittee to deal with that issue.

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    Remain Detail Oriented

    While you’re keeping an eye on overall progress, monitor individual accomplishments as well. If someone’s missing meetings, meet with that person one-on-one to find out why. Watch for negativity and manage conflict effectively by using it as a springboard for positive change. Celebrate landmarks with your team, but also keep your administrators informed of your progress. You’ll need to have them on the same page as you if you need more time or money.

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    The Best Project Managers…

    The best project managers are creative. They are people persons who get both the stakeholders and the team members to buy into a vision. They are efficient people who know how to organize projects into steps and assess risks but refuse to cut corners. They delve through layers of issues and visualize goals effectively. While all this goes on, they monitor overall progress and individual accomplishments. Ultimately, what makes a good project manager is the ability to break down the parts of a project and then assemble the right people to build each part.

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