How Does a Project Manager Excel?

I’ve often been asked about what it means to be a project manager and to be quite truthful, it’s a challenge to come up with a short answer. And equally challenging is how do you mark a project manager as excelling in his or her position in a short answer. This post will talk about what it takes, in my humble opinion, to be a “rock star” project manager.

Manage Customer Expectations – Then Beat Them

One of the most common causes of perceived project failure is the inability to manage customer expectations properly. Well-written contracts are a good start to doing this but even the best contracts can leave some ambiguity with customers about what they feel they should be getting for their money and it’s up to the project manager to ensure that what is planning to be delivered is what the customer is expecting (and/or vice versa). Once customer expectations are managed, the project manager can then work on doing whatever he or she can do to beat those expectations and have a thrilled customer at the end of the project willing to invest more money into your organization as a trusted service provider.

Keep Your Team Focused on What’s Important

Building out the project schedule and plan and sticking to it is vitally important but really, really good project managers will also know how to keep your teams focused on the most important things that may not be broken out in your project plans. Things like which defect reports to focus on first to keep things moving ahead or which meetings the team members may be able to skip in order to stay as productive as possible and keeping your project moving forward. Being able to filter out the extraneous requests from the customer that are either out of scope or not critically important to what’s being done right now are also key skills that allow a project manager to really excel in their role.

Don’t’ Ignore the Little Things

As we get more experienced, we tend to pick up on the “little things” in a project that may need some attention before they become “big” things. Identifying personality conflicts before they arise, picking up on possible scope creep that may add value to the project, being able to negotiate out of tricky situations with the customer – those are skills that almost can’t be taught but are invaluable to a project manager’s toolkit.

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