WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A PROJECT MANAGER Ramon L. Morales Robert Morris University 11 May 2010, PMP 575 The text “What it takes to be a good project manager” analyses two approaches to the prerequisites of effective project management. The author, B. Z. Posner, makes an original parallel between the primary personal characteristics of successful project managers (PM) and the basic problems facing such a position.
In fact, Posner suggests the idea that these approaches are interconnected and hence the primary successful PM’s characteristics are those that would help PM the most to overcome the basic problems facing his/her activities. 1-What primary characteristics distinguish the very successful project managers from the more mediocre project managers? Successful project managers must have a range of personal characteristics as well as problem solving skills.
Project managers must have the organizational planning skills to effectively utilize limited resources, the communication skills to listen and identify potential problems, the leadership skills to seize the initiative and set the example, and have the team building skills to motivate the team towards a common goal with the resolve to see the project through to completion. The successful project manager must also be adaptive to change and be technical and tactically proficient. 2-In Table 3, match the rankings between skills and problems.
Why aren’t the top skills matched to the problems? 1-Communication-Resources inadequate 2-Organizational-Meeting (“unrealistic”) deadlines 3-Team Building- Unclear goals/Direction 4-Leadership- Team members uncommitted 5-Coping-Insufficient Planning 6-Technological- Breakdown in communications Selecting a good project manager is complex and there are various opinions at to weather a specific set of skills are the determining factor or if a person’s ability to deal with likely project problems makes them a good roject manager. I think part of the reason that the problems in Table 1 and skills in Table 3 do not exactly match is because the top three project problems are so integrated and most likely caused by the same issue that it throws off the matching. Problems 1, 2, & 3 are most likely caused by the lack of project planning and clarity by upper management prior to project start up which immediately causes issues. All three of these issues could have been resolved by better top down communication and commitment to the project.
All of the problems and skills are inter-related and regardless of which comes first project managers must possess a certain set of skills to deal with potential problems. 3-In Table I, which of the problems are related to project set up (perhaps occurring before a project manager was selected) and which are related to the project manager’s skills? As I stated earlier I think problems 1, 2, & 3 were most likely problems related to the project prior to set up: Resources inadequate, Meeting (“unrealistic”) deadlines, unclear goals/direction.
The rest of the problems are related to the project managers skills: Team members Uncommitted (Team Building Skills), Insufficient planning (Organizational Skills), Changes in goals and resources (Coping Skills) and Conflicts between departments or functions (Communication and Leadership Skills). Granted team members could be uncommitted from the start, a successful project manager will have the Team Building skills to motivate team members. 4- How does Table I compare to the discussion in the chapter? Most of the problems in Table I are discussed in the chapter.
Problems 1, 2, & 3 are discussed in relation to Dealing with Obstacles on page 119. Problems 4 & 8 are discussed in the chapter under Acquiring and Motivating Personnel. I would have to say that the remaining problems in Table I were not so much discussed as problems faced during a project but as required skills necessary by a project manager. So the chapter talked more about the communication, coping, and organizational skills needed by a successful project manager as compared to common problems faced by a project manager: Insufficient planning, breakdown of communications, and changes in goals and resources. – How does Table 2 compare to the discussion in the chapter? I think this chapter focuses more on project management skills needed than project problems. Almost all of the skills in Table 2 are presented in the chapter but in my opinion the chapter makes a weak attempt to explain Leadership and Team Building Skills as they relate to project success. I like the way that the B. Z. Posner fundamentally connects project management skills with common problems faced by project managers. The problems associated with projects can be random and vast.
Nevertheless potential PMs must have an adaptive and extensive skill set to be effective and to manage obstacles that arise during the course of a project. It is also important to note that the presented study was conducted more than 20 years ago. If we take into account the evolution in information technology and globalization the skills required for successful project management may be slightly different today. As I stated in my answer to question 5, the chapter and the results of the PM skill survey really undermine the importance of Leadership and Team Building Skills as they relate to project success.
My experience in the military and with various projects has given me the insight that the most important aspect of project management is Leadership. Great leaders train great teams to solve great problems. “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. “ Colin Powell