Essentially, the job of a project manager is to take on a customer’s big picture vision and to turn that vision into reality within certain time, budget and quality constraints. To do that, the project manager needs to spend a considerable amount of time and effort liaising with the customer, understanding the vision and planning the project in collaboration with the team. The project manager must keep scope, quality, risks, issues and cost under control whilst liaising with stakeholders and providing leadership and direction to the team. All of this requires thoughtful consideration and a great deal of skill.
A good project manager is proactive rather than reactive and will seek to uncover risks before they turn into issues. He will never assume, but constantly ask if he has proof that something is working well. For instance, how do I know that my team is motivated and fully embraces the objectives of the project? How do I know that what we are developing is what the users want and need? How do I know that risks are being effectively identified and mitigated?
A great project manager is honest and approachable and focuses on people as much as on tasks. She knows that she cannot manage a project from behind her desk. Instead she works closely with team members and is not afraid of getting her hands dirty. She knows when to support and guide others, and when to challenge and hold them to account. In addition, she is able to manage her own state of mind and has sufficient self-discipline and personal insight to set an excellent example for others to follow.
In other words, a good project manger is so much more than a person who has the knowledge and ability to make effective use of tools and processes. It is someone who has the right amount of drive, attitude and confidence to mobilise others to get the project over the finishing line.
Every situation and every project is different, and the type of project manager required for each project will vary accordingly. Nor surprisingly, successful project managers come in many guises. Some projects need a manager who is technical or who knows a lot about the client’s business area. Others require a manager who is good at organising a large undertaking and implementing generic systems and controls.
The key to finding the right project manager for any department or project is to first and foremost understand what your needs are and what the company is looking for. To get started, visualise the type of project that needs to be managed and imagine the project manager doing their daily job. What is the project manager doing and how is he or she behaving towards the team and the stakeholders? How is the project manager dealing with risks and issues and with interpersonal conflict? Write down what you see, feel and hear.
To help you narrow down your requirements further, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this a smaller technical project or a large complex business project?
- Does the project have few or many difficult stakeholders to manage?
- Is the project’s domain straightforward or does it require specific knowledge?
- How important is the ability to manage tasks as opposed to people?
- Is the project team already in place or would the project manager need to build it from scratch?
- Has the project already been kicked off or would the project manager need to define and plan it?
- Does the role require the project manager to have line management responsibilities?
- Is a Project Management Office (PMO) in place to support the project manager with best practices and financial reporting or does the project manager need to be able to define the project management standards?
- Which type of personality does the project manager need to be in order to best complement the existing team and company culture?
- How important is the project manager’s ability to lead and motivate others?
Once you have a broad understanding of the kind of project manager you need to hire, the next step is to narrow down the description by creating a benchmark of the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to have. Although one candidate may not tick all the boxes, the likelihood of finding and outstanding project manager is much greater the clearer you are about what you are looking for.
Read through each of the abilities below and determine the capability level that you would like the candidate to have. Allocate a desired score between 1 and 10 to each capability.
- Understand the business domain and end user’s needs
- Understand agile principles
- Understand the end-to-end project lifecycle
- Understand PMP/ PRINCE2 and project management best practices
- Understand how to gather, document and verify requirements
- Understand how to test and assure quality of end deliverables
- Serve the customer and focus on business benefits
- Effectively initiate a project and secure buy in from all parties
- Set up an effective governance process, including steering committee
- Plan and track project activities
- Estimate and control project cost
- Produce honest and regular project reporting
- Be proactive in the identification and resolution of risks and issues
- Formally identify, analyse and control change requests
- Clearly communicate project vision and priorities to the team
- Coach and grow team members with potential
- Inspire, motivate and provide focus and direction to the team
- Empathise and build strong relationships of trust with customer
- Enable collaboration and build a high performing team
- Value own contributions and say no to demanding stakeholders
- Stay calm in stressful and challenging situations
- Effectively manage interpersonal conflict
- Maintain a positive mental attitude
- Challenge and hold others to account
- Delegate and manage own time effectively
- Communicate effectively and with impact
- Make effective and timely decisions
- Act with integrity and take personal responsibility
- Set a good example for others to follow
- Effectively give and receive feedback
In Part II of this post, which will be published soon, we will look at the personality profile of the project manager you require.