December 14, 2015
In the world of consulting, it is not uncommon for people to question the benefit of an investment in project management. In my experience, those people have been exposed to the kind of project managers who can throw out the buzz words – “work breakdown structure”, “sprint burn down”, “critical path” – or who can build a project schedule in Microsoft Project, but are lacking in some of the more subtle and intangible skills that make project management a true benefit for any project – be that development of new software or planning a wedding.
I want to discuss a few of these more intangible skills in the hope of demonstrating that good project management is more than just a collection of flashy terms and a set of initials after a name. (Although in the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I do have a PMP).
A consulting company cannot get very far without building customer trust throughout a project. A trusting customer is more likely to provide a good review or reference for future work. While running a project, the project manager acts as the face of the consulting company. A successful project can exist in a vacuum, but a successful business is built on the relationship of trust with the customer. I believe that these same values apply to the relationship between a project sponsor and project manager, even when there isn’t a client-consultant relationship in play.
I think you’ll find few people who will argue against the statement that the heart of any project is the project team. Even without a project manager, a few people working towards a common goal should be able to get the job done. A good project management manager should have a transformative effect, turning a few people into something more. For me, team building means helping each individual on a team understand not only their own role, but also something of the role of all team members. I find that when someone understands their own importance to the overall goal it gives him/her a purpose beyond just the completion of each individual task. When a team member knows the role and skills of his or her team members, efficiencies can be found when issues arise or when someone needs help solving a problem. The project team is more focused on working together to reach the end goal, rather than the completion of each individual task.
Ninety percent of a project manager’s job is communication. While it seems fairly obvious that a project manager must communicate with a project sponsor or stakeholders on status, risks or issues, it is often overlooked that the project manager should also be communicating with the project team and facilitating communication amongst the project team. Being transparent with the project team regarding task status and project progress helps the project team feel that they are working together towards a common goal. Facilitating communication within the project team makes the team work more efficiently together.
In my experience there is not a specific prescription to follow when it comes to building an effective team. The project manager must be responsive and flexible. The project manager is ultimately responsible for the morale of the project team. A skillful project manager can bring together a project team to work efficiently towards a common goal making a better working environment for both the project team and key project stakeholders that are involved in the day-to-day activities of the project.