The five qualities of a good project manager

In the introductory blog in this series, we outlined five important attributes, the Five Ps if you will, of project management– prepared, precise, proactive, perseverance, and perpetual learning. The next installation expounded upon the first in P is for Prepared followed by P is for Precise. So, now let’s move on to talk about being proactive and the implications for project managers.

P is for Proactive

The word proactive is an adjective that means creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened. Simple enough concept, right? Even logical. And yet, proactivity is more rare than it should be. The world would probably be a much nicer place in which to live if we didn’t wait for chaos to ensue before we addressed an issue.  But, that’s a conversation for another time. For now, let’s just talk about our little corner of the business universe, the world of project management.

So, what does it mean for project managers to be proactive? TechRepublic identifies three kinds of project managers. The first is the accidental PM who comes up through the ranks and maybe understands the types of projects that they are managing, can build a work plan, and can assign work to other team members, but they don't have the project management discipline that comes from experience. The second type is good and understands that successful project management requires one to oversee issues, scope, communication, and  risk, but they don’t really embrace the idea that their approach really needs to be a proactive one in order to be effective. The third kind of PM, the one that we all want at the epicenter of our structure, is someone who has made the mental transition to apply his or her discipline on a proactive and ongoing basis.

The good PM understands the basic responsibilities of a project manager. The proactive PM has internalized these responsibilities and integrates them into the scope of the project work. Proactive PMs don't perform their duties simply because they're required. They perform their responsibilities because they fundamentally understand that these processes greatly increase the possibility of success. So, how do you go from being good to being proactive, you ask? Here are some tips.

Clearly define the project. This should be done in advance of the project commencement so that everyone on the team understands exactly the work that is to be done and their role in ensuring success.

Communication and customer engagement. A proactive PM doesn’t just do the bare minimum by providing occasional status reports, but takes it a step further and manages communication, anticipating the various needs of the client. Utilizing a communication plan can be really helpful. You can download a free template at Project Management Docs if you don't have one of your own.

Time control. Even if you manage risk, plan ahead to provide yourself with the time you’ll need to address unanticipated problems.  Mind Tools calls it “buffer time”, which is a nice segue way into the next point…

Risk management. Being proactive means trying to recognize risk factors from the very beginning of a project and utilizing a process by which to address all major problems as they occur. And inevitably problems will arise, people. They just will. Even if one is great at managing risk, that buffer time mentioned above is critical.

Review Processes. In the blog installation on precision we provided an overview of some techniques, such as the Critical Path Analysis (a fancy term for a project flow chart) that can help PMs to visualize their project and aid in efficient management and process determination. There are also free online project management interfaces, such as Asana, which can provide an organizational chart and process configuration if you do not already have one in place.

Quality solution. All effective PMs determine in advance the client’s expectations for quality and develops a plan to make sure that the level of quality will be met. It almost becomes a matter of pride for some PMs and that’s when the chief knows they have a keeper.

Last, but in no way least, budget management. Proactive budget management is so important and yet commonly overlooked. Even just using a simple spreadsheet as a forecasting tool may end up saving the day!

Project management can feel like a harrowing job to assume, but it can be done. And it can be done well. As an Extra Nerd, I have the pleasure of working daily with an extremely effective project manager, as a matter of fact. In the technology industry – and in many other industries, for that matter – you will find fewer more valuable members of your team than a proactive project manager.

That being said, another of the integral characteristics of a great project manager is perseverance so stop back next week for another post as we continue to dissect project management and, hopefully, provide PMs with a foundation for success!

Posted on July 31, 2015 and filed under 5 Qualities of a Good PM.