Project Managers often have to function without formal authority over their teams with in the organisation. They are sometimes refereed to as the "King" but in actual sense they do not posses any legitimate control in the organisation. Project Managers are expected to produce results by working outside the hierarchical structural of the organisation and with out any kind of authority with in their realm of operations. Most of the times project managers do not conduct performance appraisal, offer rewards and incentives to their team members. Many of the problems faced by the project managers are behavioral in nature rather than technical. These problems though seem to be of a minor nature but have far reaching consequences in successful implementation of projects. A list of a dozen essentials for a project manager, arranged in order of importance and reasoning behind them is as follows.
It is said that if you fail to plan then you are planning to fail. Planning, its importance and methodologies is covered to a great extent in the following posts.
Planning is an iterative process and there isn't a perfect plan to any project. Surprises are bound to happen while executing a project and the project managers should prepare himself and his team for any such surprises. The essence of good planning lies in doing things right the first time. Plan not only includes the activity schedule but it also includes a whole gamut of other activities like quality, communication, human resource, procurement, risks, project scope etc. Project Manager should never get bogged down by the constant pressure of the stake holders, but should allow time to his team to work out a workable plan that will form the basis for successful completion of the project. Project Managers are like business leaders they must plan but on the other hand they must also know when to change their strategy in order to achieve their goals.
(b) Leadership :
A project manager's leadership style should be flexible enough to respond to the needs of the project. Sometime an autocratic approach is useful but there are times when a more consensual approach is desired. Project Management is a leadership intensive undertaking, an effective leader can steer a project successfully through the most unforeseen and a number of external as well as internal problems. This is the second most important attribute that a project manager should try to develop.
(c) Time Management :
Time is the most precious commodity. A good project manager should identify and list down time killers in his day to day activity. Project Manager should assess how he is spending time and what is he doing profitably and unprofitably. If a project manager is able to plan his day and is able to stick to his schedule, this will automatically reduce inefficiencies in the project.
(d) Team Work :
Not all project managers have a set of team members who report to the project manager directly. In many projects, the team consists of cross functional members drawn from various functional departments. It is a challenge for a project manger to ensure that the team members remain together at all times and jointly work towards the fulfillment of project deliverable. Under such circumstances developing and maintaining a cordial team relations and fostering a healthy inter-group atmosphere often seems a full time responsibility of a project manager. Project Managers need to resort to both conventional and unconventional methods to check the motivation level of the team and to ensure that the team remains motivated during the course of the project work. A well motivated team means less conflicts during the project execution.
(e) Adaptability :
Most of the internal organisational decisions are influenced in one way or the other by departmental politics. A project manager should accept the scenario around him and try to maximize gains out this scenario. Project Manager should use the existing political system around him to negotiate, bargain or use influence to get the right kind of resources allocated for his project and ensure that the situation around him is not detrimental to the project.
(f) Conflict Management :
When individuals from diverse background team up to work together, conflicts are bound to happen. Project Manager should not react in panic as and when the conflicts arise in a team however the PM should investigate the reasons behind the conflicts and address them in a systematic fashion. Project Manager should avoid a knee jerk reaction to a conflict. Interpersonal conflicts are a result of personality differences while other conflicts are of a technical nature and can be addressed before a situation becomes serious. If a conflict is is allowed to fester it may erupt at a later stage and this eruption can have a far more damaging consequences to the project.
(g) Triple Constraints and more :
The undermentioned blog post states in depth of what are the other factors that influence the project success.
The world around us is changing rapidly and so is the expectations form a project manager. A good project manager should strive to achieve results that are beyond the triple constraints of schedule, cost and performance. Project Manager should also concentrate on the intrinsic value that a project brings to the organisation rather than satisfying the stake holders needs .
(h) Communicate :
Project Manager should avoid being a signboard of project success or failure. Rather than keeping the issues, problems, success or failure of the project to himself, a project manager should communicate with his team on a regular basis and appraise his team of the current status of the project. Joint project progress review meetings can work wonders if the project is marred with problems and issues. This will ensure that all team members are fully involved in the project and have a joint responsibility towards project success and failure. Regular communication with the team members will also keep the motivation level high.
It is very important for the project manager to know who the stake holders are and what they want. In large projects the number of stake holders is large and their demands may also be conflicting in nature. Project Manager cannot please each and every stake holder however, he can identify the stakeholders and work out a realistic assessment of the stake holders requirements during the early stages of the project. Project Manager should also work out an impact to the project if any of powerful stake holder remains dissatisfied during the course of the project execution.
(j) Avoid Comfort Zone :
A seasoned project manager should never become comfortable with the present state of the project. He should always challenge the accepted beliefs and motivate his team members to create wonders. A project manager should always ask the questions like, who, what, when, where, why. What if analysis is an important tool that a project manager should use to mitigate risks. For some projecting a skeptical eye towards the future may seem gloomy but when it comes to project management it makes a real good sense.
(k) Focus on deliverable :
Project Manager has to deal with a number of activities on a daily basis not all are related to the end product. Under these circumstances project manager is likely to loose sight of the final goal. No matter how complex the over all situation is, a project manager should always remain focused and concentrate on the big picture.
(l) Manage Internal Factors :
Organisational environment differ from organisation to organisation however one thing that is common in all organisations is that project manager needs to manage both external and internal variables with equal importance. Though this point is appearing in the end of the list and the primary reason behind this is that some aspects of it has been covered in points mentioned above. Team dynamics, internal politics with in the organisations, overall organisational goals and priorities are some of the factors that a project manager needs to monitor to exercise better control over his project.
To conclude project management is not a one solution that fits all organisations, it varies form project to project with in the organisation. The above list has been enumerated based on my experience, you may find some other variables more compelling and crucial to a Project Manager. Moreover apart form the above mentioned dozen essentials that a project manager should ensure there is a list of pitfalls that a project managers should avoid. Blog post 10 Project Management Pitfalls that a project managers should avoid clearly brings out this fact.