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Factors Most Critical to the Success of a Project Manager

written by: SusieBrown • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 4/22/2012

The project manager's leadership qualities, interpersonal skills, and the ability to stay organized are some of the factors most critical to the success of a project manager. They also contribute to the success of a project, however, project managers should consider several other variables as well.

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    Critical Success Factors in Project Management

    Business Meeting, Shirishbendre If you are an inexperienced project manager looking for the most important skills and tools needed to successfully manage a project, you should first keep in mind the following point: the most critical factors that lead to the success of a project manager are often variable. After all, projects are executed within different organizations and industries, concern scopes of varying size and complexity, and involve people of assorted strengths, skills, and backgrounds.

    But underlying all of these differences, there are several key factors and skills that will definitely enhance the development and execution of any project and greatly increase the chances that the project will be a success. These factors are briefly described below.

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    What Personality Traits are Critical to Project Success?

    There are several characteristics that will help project managers move a project though to completion and many of them overlap with one another:

    • Good interpersonal and communication skills. This set of character traits is first on the list for good reason. It is perhaps the most important quality for a project manager to possess. A project manager who knows how to clearly and accurately present the right information to the right people in the most appropriate manner, has already cleared several common hurdles that can quickly derail a project.
    • Management skills. A project manager should know how to manage. This includes the ability to allocate and track resources in an efficient and organized way, assign the right tasks to the right people, break the project down into manageable chunks and stick to time and budgetary constraints.
    • Leadership abilities. As project variables, resources, and scope become more complex, the need for leadership skills becomes all the more important. In this sense, the project manager would need to create a consensus, bridge the differences among the members of a project team, and in general keep everyone focused on the overriding goals of the project through all the ups and downs.
    • Understanding and appreciation of differences. As businesses and organizations in general become more global, the workplace is becoming more diverse. Project managers should thus know how to be sensitive to project personnel from various ethnic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
    • The ability to learn from mistakes. "Life" gets in the way of a developing project and it is natural for set-backs, side tracks, and misunderstandings to occur. The project manager should be able to plan in advance for these contingencies and know how to handle them when they come up.
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    What Other Factors Contribute to Project Success?

    There are several additional elements that contribute to the effective execution of a project:

    • Use the right project management software tools. For simpler projects an Excel spreadsheet may be enough. But for more complex projects, a richer project management software solution may be more appropriate.
    • Have a good infrastructure for sharing, storing, and updating project data. Many times problems can crop up in a project simply because necessary information was either inaccurate, unavailable, or unclear. Where project team members are geographically spread out it is all the more important to set up a system that allows for effective communication and collaboration.
    • Project personnel should receive cultural sensitivity training. Aside from the project manager, all those who will be working on the front lines of a project with a culturally diverse workforce should receive some form of cultural sensitivity training. The investment of time and money may be well worth it given the costly setbacks and misunderstandings it can prevent.
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    What Project Managers Should Do With This List of Success Factors

    After reading the following list, you should strive to develop as many of these qualities and tools as possible, and for those areas in which you are lacking, whether in experience, personality, or team resources, you should seek ways to compensate.

    For example, if you are assigned to manage a project, yet are not an organized person, you should create a situation that will help you to execute the project in an orderly way, such as using a software application or recruiting the assistance of an organized member of your project team. When leadership skills are lacking, seek leadership development training or education. In terms of infrastructure, there are many free and low-cost tools available designed to assist project management, communication, and collaboration.

    In short, now that you are aware of what is most critical to the success of a project manager, your goal is to enhance the management and/or leadership strengths you already possess, build yourself and your situation up where ever you can, and get assistance in those areas where you are still lacking.