There are Poor Project Managers (PPM), Average Project Managers (APM), and then there are World-Class Project Managers (WCPM). It is easy to identify a PPM by late or failed projects combined with dissatisfied teams members and stakeholders. The APM might do a decent job, since the project might have been completed on time, in scope and budget but they have a few dissatisfied team members along the way, they did what the project required but just fell short of becoming a world class project manager.
In this article, I will describe what it takes to be a WCPM and, when needed, will compare a WCPM with an APM.
A World Class Project Manager (WCPM) has the following qualities:
- Communicative. A WCPM is one that communicates often and communicates in two ways. As there is no such thing as too much communication, a WCPM communicates often to make sure everyone is on the same page. Communicating in two ways means being a good listener as well as a speaker.
- Social. You can put a WCPM in any type of crowd and you can be certain that he will find a way to strike up a good conversation. Good social skills help the WCPM break the ice, get team members and stakeholders no his side and portray confidence. He is also a master at developing relationships and keeping them. Relationships go a long way in facilitating team work.
- Political. A WCPM understands the nature of the organization, the background of his stakeholders and the sensitivity of the project. These are keys to planning and managing projects.
- Good judgment. Besides the fact that a WCPM knows when to escalate, when to terminate, when to let go and when to be aggressive, he also provides to the sponsor the entire picture, along with the analysis, the backgrounds and possible recommended solutions he simply make the sponsor's task of making a decision, much easier and much informed.
- Proactive. A WCPM can see and predict issues and problems before they actually happen. Having that ability makes him plan for the issues ahead of time and so when they take place, those issues do not bug down the project. Many project managers and functional managers are reactive and act only when the issues take place.
- A master facilitator, of meetings and discussions. As a WCPM, you will often be involved in projects where you might not be the SME, but given your facilitation skills, you should be able to facilitate large groups' meetings with ease and style to reach decisions, consensus and plans.
- Change agent. A WCPM encourages change to the way things are done, or ways that problems are solved. He is a change agent that always advocates innovation and creativity to deal with change. A typical APM sticks to what they know and they resist change at all costs.
- Knowledgeable about other businesses or groups within the company. He has the basic knowledge to associate with the business users, understand their requirements, and be the link between the users and technical groups (e.g. Engineering or IT).
- Computer savvy. A WCPM knows project management tools such as MS Project, Primavera or HPPPM, presentation tools such as Power Point and Visio, productivity tools such as Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Data Base processing. He uses the tools to produce meaningful and expressive documents that tell stories and summarize the problems.
- Takes initiative. Instead of waiting to be told what to do, or what to be involved with, a WCPM jumps on occasions and opportunities to improve, to move and to solve. This can apply to processes, business cases or even human resources issues.
- Has great attitude. A WCPM has a positive attitude, believe things can happen, believe in people and their ability and have confidence in himself and his team. An APM usually has a pessimistic attitude, is worried about the completion of the project on time, and constantly double-checks on his stakeholders' work.
- Disciplined, about priorities, tasks and projects. A WPM can be distracted and confused about priorities. When you call/email a WCPM, he will let you know that he will get back to you in a certain date, but not immediately (most likely). An APM, will most likely, drop all that he is working on and work on your task immediately.
- Flexible. A WCPM knows when to apply a full project life cycle or a project management methodology and when to apply parts of it. An APM applies the "same" methodology in every single project, regardless of its size, complexities or team members' complexion.
- Decisive. Knows when to step in or when to let others do their job. A WCPM is one that knows when to make decisions for the team and when to let the team make a collective decision. An APM may be tempted to make ALL (or most of) the decisions and "tell" the team what to do. A WCPM wins the team over. The APM forces the team into certain direction or approach.
- A motivator. A WCPM have the ability to make a team, who does not work for him directly, be motivated to complete the project. A WCPM knows how to tap into each team member's inner creativity and ability to bring the best out of him.
- Non-traditional. If needed, a WCPM can think outside the box and dare to take steps needed to make an impact.
- Accountable. A WCPM is one that does not settle except for being accountable for the outcomes of the project. He is not a support personnel to a technical/functional manager. An APM can settle for being in a support capacity and shy away from accountability.
- Well-versed on project management aspects. Of particular importance are scope, change management and risk management. Scope creep is one sure area that can kill or severely impact the project's delivery and budget. A WCPM knows how/when to implement a change management process and how to use it to manage scope changes. Identifying/quantifying and mitigating risks early on in the project are keys to avoid disasters later on. An APM may not define a change management process and accept changes liberally in the name of "the customer/user is always right".
- A teacher. A WCPM is one that will take the time to educate the stakeholders on the aspects of project management that relate to their projects, so as to win them over. This is especially true for those doubtful or new to project management. A WCPM always find the best ways and time to educate his team.
- Visionary. A WCPM is one that has a vision for the project, how it fits the organization, how it fits his team and stakeholders' interests and how to make it all work together. Whereas an APM focus on short term gains, a WCPM focuses on the long term lasting effects of the project, the team and the relationships.
- Has the correct management style. Many people think that if you are a dictator-type project manager, ordering people around, yelling and controlling, then you will get your job done. This might be true for some project managers and in some instances, but it will also negatively affect the team's morals and performance on the long run. You don’t want to be the project manager, for which, no one wants to work. A better management style (and one that is practiced by WCPM) is one that inspires people to do their best, motivates them to participate and take pride and help them see the bigger picture at all times.
- A learner. A WCPM is one that constantly learns and is not afraid to admit mistakes. Let's face it. No one is expert on everything. On a typical project, the PM will have SME (Subject Matter Experts) that know their subject more than anyone else. A WCPM learns from those SMEs (and on his own) enough to speak the language, understand the issues and manage the entire effort. A WCPM will always bring something new to every project that perfectly fits this specific project.
- Trust people. A WCPM is one that trusts his team to do their job and not monitor them every step along the way. Another way to express trust is delegation. You will find that the WCPM delegates some of his responsibilities to their team, according to the team members' expertise or learning attitudes. An APM is controlling, does not trust people and check on his team often.
- Diversified. A WCPM is one that is open-minded and encourages diversity in all its forms (thinking, ideas, opinions, backgrounds, skills, etc.) This is key to innovating and competing in the 21st century.
- Innovative. A WCPM is one that encourages idea generation and problem solving. To compare, an APM is one that sticks to checklists rigidly regardless of the project size, team's backgrounds, or company's culture, etc.
It takes more than just few qualities to be a WCPM - World Class Project Manager. Once you have a WCPM, treat him well. You now have a diamond at hand.
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