What is it your project manager, your project team, your project customer, and your senior management really wants from the project manager? What key qualities are you looking for? A good right hook? Probably not. For me it comes down to these top 5 things...
Can help drive good, detailed requirements. The project manager who can comprehend customer business processes quickly and turn them into a functional design with the team and creates detailed requirements from that functional design is invaluable to the organization. It's like a great football quarterback who can look at the defense and read the defense. He can see what they are planning for and respond accordingly. And win. Winning is good. I always say that detailed, complex, well documented requirements are the lifeblood of the project and getting started on design and development from great requirements is a major stepping stone to success. And those same requirements will be a major component of a successful user acceptance testing (UAT) session later in the project as your getting very close to a signed off deliverable project to the customer and end user community.
Can manage project teams effectively. Resource management, communication, conflict resolution, mentoring - these are all good qualities for a project manager to possess in order to successfully lead teams on productive and winning projects. But it's more than that. It's high integrity, honesty, follow up and follow through, confidence, and the ability to make decisions and delegate tasks and not waiver, but still be open to team feedback and communication. Yes, you are leading the team, but not micromanaging them or oppressively managing the team. It's a cohesive, collaborative process and a back and forth input, absorption and follow through process. The project manager needs to be able to listen as well and as much as they speak – it will go miles toward successful leadership of the project team.
Exudes confidence. The effective and efficient project manager also must exude confidence. That's actually very important for any leader in order to be respected and followed. The project manager often must make tough decisions without much data or info to back them up and if they are lacking confidence the team and the customer will sense that and be concerned about the project manager's ability to lead a successful Project. You don't want to go there. Be confident, standby your actions, your decisions and task delegations even if there is pushback. But at the same time, recognize and admit your mistakes.
Cares about the customer. Customer passion, understanding and empathy are all good qualities of the effective and successful project manager. Feeling accountable to the customer and living by my personal motto of "you're only as successful as you're last customer thinks you are..." will help the project manager stay focused on one of the key ingredients of project success - customer satisfaction. Customers need and want a high level of communication and many touch points and frequent updates on most projects to stay confident in the delivery team and feel good about the project. And that's ok – it's their money you're working with so they have that right.
Summary / call for input
The bottom line on the project manager who will best serve the project, the team, the customer and the project manager is one who is experienced, has the right tech knowledge coming in, is confident and ready to make decisions and lead a team. He's been around the block – knows when to act and when to get more info, knows how to lead a customer, knows how to maintain the productivity of a skilled team, and knows how to facilitate good and effective communication. Everyone has to start somewhere so all new business analysts are novices at some point, but most that I've worked with were either project managers or tech leads before becoming business analysts so they were already a step ahead of everyone else.
Readers – what's your take on this? If you're a project manager, where did you come from – and why be a project manager? What drove you into the position... need, desire?