The definition of project management as stipulated by the International Project Management Association (IPMA) belies the overwhelming task that an effective manager faces. According to IPMA project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve a specific project’s objectives.
At a glance it sounds like anyone with some managerial background can ace project management. However, there is a difference between any manager and a successful project leader. To borrow from one of the greatest project managers of all times Dwight D. Eisenhower, leading a project is not about clubbing people’s heads as this would amount to assault as opposed to leadership.
A lot of research has been done in the area of project management and the consensus indicates that a good leader in this field consistently delivers on time, within a set budget to either meet or exceed the expectations of stakeholders.
Thanks to an intensive study by Andy Crowe who carried out a peer study of a group of 860 project managers it is now possible to get some attributes of successful project managers especially in IT projects. Take a look:
1. Visionary Leadership
Without a vision your project is as good as doomed. An effective project manager knows clearly where to go and articulates the same in the most concise terms. This makes it easier for everyone in the team to work consistently towards one goal. This makes everyone in the team to feel they have a stake in the whole process.
The best manager will give the team a reason for being and believe in everything they are doing. A visionary leader thus does not lose the sight of the bigger picture despite the hurdles he faces at every juncture. As Warren Bennis, the pioneer of leadership research says, a visionary leader offers the team opportunities to create their own vision, explore it and what it means, and envision a future as part of an organization’s vision.
2. Communication Skills
Good communication in leadership has been a subject of myriad studies over the last century. A study by Manshoor Abassi published in the International Journal of Business and Social Science Vol 2 No 10, 2011 highlights the importance of communication in leadership by allowing the formation of lasting relationships. The study which focuses on the role of listening in leadership found that communication skills greatly impact project leadership.
As a link to the larger organization a project leader must embody openness and directness in communication. They must also have the ability to communicate with people at all levels. Through effective communication a manager is able to support both team and individual achievement and guide such energy towards further exploits.
3. Organization Skills
This is an attribute that is closely linked to communication and it encompasses attaining efficiency in every task of the project. As an effective organizer a manager will guide the team to stick to timelines and prioritize competing responsibilities.
Such a manager is able to guide the team to help it remain focused on the bigger picture by being able to prioritize work for enhanced efficiency
As a project manager your actions-and not your words set the modus operandi of the team. As such a successful manager is one who can motivate the team through commitment, dedication and adherence to ethical standards throughout the project. This attribute also entails rewarding those individuals who are committed to the success of the project.
Once a set of values are set, the best manager must be at the vanguard of sticking by them by walking the talk however tough it seems. In simple terms; a good project manager sets an example to the others as far as integrity is concerned.
5. Enthusiasm and Passion
Every day is a working day in project management and a successful manager will lead from the front through vigor and passion for the task at hand. Any team will easily jell under a leader who portrays a can-do attitude as opposed to a sluggard. In any organization, enthusiastic leadership is contagious and with time this optimism passes to the team. In other words an effective project manager is action-oriented from the word go.
There is no alternative to skills, experience and knowledge in project management. The best manager exemplifies expertise that will be evident to those under their command. Competence elicits respect and adherence to authority without having to use other means of gaining compliance.
In addition to their technical expertise, the best project manager espouses ability to challenge, inspire, enable, model and encourage team members. This is a key aspect in formation of an effective team as it provides a guideline on what needs to be done while identifying resources needed to get it done.
7. Effective Leadership Skills
People skills are critical for a project manager in order to form a cohesive team. In such a team support systems are easily created because the manager understands strengths and weaknesses of the team members. The fact that a project manager has to interact with a variety of stakeholders necessitates leadership skills to cope with different personalities. They must possess high levels of integrity, courage, commitment to the project and inspired enthusiasm.
According to Norman Paul empathy is a quality that recognizes existence of an individual by another. This means a manager must view each team member as a separate being entitled to his/her own feelings, emotional history and ideas. This is a character that a successful project manager should have towards the team members as opposed to sympathizing with them.
A good manager must understand what motivates those working under them in order to take the project forward. A project manager thus appreciates that there are other factors other than work that motivate the behavior of individuals in the team.
9. Delegation of Tasks
There can be no effective project management without trust and one way of engendering this is by delegation of tasks. A good project manager appreciates that a bond must be created between the team and those heading it. By allowing people to participate and delegating appropriate tasks to different team members a manager creates rapport and confidence among the team.
This also averts micro-management which is an Achilles heel of many managers. By assigning the right tasks to the right people and trusting they will leverage their best abilities to accomplish them you also create a better working atmosphere where the team does not feel stifled by your leadership style.
10. Problem Solving Skills
A great manager may not have a solution to every problem but they will have an idea on setting a path towards an effective solution. The approach a manager uses to deal with conflict determines the success of a project.
The best manager must evolve into a problem-solving expert who can foresee problems before they arise and find ways of averting them. They have a fresh and creative response to here-and-now opportunities.
In conclusion, good project management is all about building an effective team and guiding it towards realizing set objectives. It encompasses organization, communication, and providing effective leadership at every turn. All this must be done with unrelenting passion while also giving the team some leeway for creativity.
Image: U.S. Army