A project manager could be defined as a conductor, responsible for the smooth roll-out of all the different phases of a project from inception until the mandate is closed. During the inception phase, the project manager makes sure that the parameters of the mandate are well-defined. At this stage, it is crucial to have a solid grasp of the scope of the project, and to identify the different stakeholders who will be involved throughout the process. During the planning phase, the project manager makes sure that the necessary skilled resources are available to work on the project. It’s during this stage that a project plan and timeline are developed. The key stages of the mandate are detailed, and someone is assigned to be responsible for each planned activity.
During the execution phase, the project manager keeps the team informed of the tasks that need to be accomplished, and defines the key indicators of success for different team members. Throughout the project, they ensure that the mandate respects budgets, timelines, objectives and requirements, and that all the different activities happen as smoothly as possible. The project manager is also responsible for guaranteeing the quality of the deliverables presented to the client.
Last but not least, is the stage of closing out the project. During this final stage the project manager, with support from the various specialists involved in the mandate, is in charge of creating a post-mortem that communicates global observations on the roll-out of the project, and pulls together learnings that could be applied to future projects.
Listening is one of the fundamental skills of a project manager. In fact, active listening is what allows you to understand what another person is saying, and ask questions as needed. If you can paraphrase what is being said to you in a conversation, you can probably assume that you’ve properly understood what’s been said.
Because a project manager spends 90% of their time communicating, whether in writing, by email, or in person, you need to be a skilled negotiator, be demonstrably empathetic, and be able to offer up solutions. In addition, it’s essential to document everything both before and after a project in order to centralize information and make it available to all stakeholders. Documenting a project can happen on several levels. For example, it could mean establishing a meeting schedule and timelines, identifying the roles of various stakeholders, documenting the progress of activities, or even tracking budgets. Ever tactful and diplomatic, the project manager is also called upon to run different types of meetings, so you need to be able to express yourself well.
A project manager needs to be endowed with sharp intellectual curiosity. Because they interact often with various types of specialists, they are frequently called upon to go outside their comfort zones. For that reason, you need to ask questions, expand your knowledge of subjects related to your projects, and above all stay informed. Don’t hesitate to feed your curiosity by reading voraciously, attending conferences, participating in workshops and most of all by shadowing specialists on the ground to absorb the essence of what they do. Curiosity can also help you keep informed of project activities, align your objectives and identify potential risks before an issue arises.
It’s rare that a project unfolds exactly as you planned at the outset. That’s why a project manager needs to be able to propose innovative, creative solutions to make the project a success. You need to be creative to be able to come up with innovative solutions while at the same time respecting the value a project brings. It is therefore essential to mobilize all stakeholders to get involved and stay motivated even when you hit a roadblock. Changing up the format of your team or client meetings, adapting rapidly to change, and reacting quickly and appropriately to new situations are all great examples of how to be creative as a project manager.
In line with creativity, a project manager needs to be able to contend with different issues or situations that risk slowing a project down. The modern project manager needs to be able to adapt to changes that could interfere with a project. To do that, the agile project management method is an interesting option. It’s a method that advocates a flexible way of working that allows you to correct course quickly in case of changes or conflicts. It’s collaborative and very effective for leading projects and managing the unexpected.
A project manager needs to be able to mobilize all stakeholders and guide them towards success. A charismatic leader, the manager needs to motivate their peers so that everyone is invested in and dedicated to the project. They also need to be able to inspire stakeholders to invest in their tasks. Promoting an open environment, opting for open discussion, involving every team member, giving credit where it’s due, giving everyone the freedom to express their opinions, sharing the right values and above all cultivating a positive attitude are all good practices.
Because they are bound to be confronted with sensitive situations of one kind or another at some point, a project manager needs to cultivate and strengthen their emotional intelligence. For most of us, this seems like a complicated endeavour, but there are ways to develop these skills. Investing in self-esteem and self-affirmation work is a good start. A good base of self-awareness and being able to identify your emotions can help you anticipate certain reactions and find solutions to deal with them confidently. Demonstrating a strong capacity for adaptability and resiliency as discussed above is equally important here. Being able to control and manage your emotions is of the utmost importance in project management.
While it’s true that a project manager needs to be agile, flexible and open to change, it’s equally important to maintain a certain consistency in the way you manage different activities. That could translate to a standardization of work processes in order to help specialists save time and easily find relevant documentation, setting recurring meetings to get everyone into a rhythm for the activities/deliverables they’re working on, and identifying the risks and constraints inherent to the project and rapidly resolving them. There should also be a place for consistency in your communications. Meaning that it’s important to provide teams with consistent follow-up. As an example, this might mean maintaining the same format for meeting follow-ups or agendas. This gives specialists access to reference documents to properly manage their tasks and responsibilities. In their day-to-day job, a project manager is also strongly encouraged to employ a certain consistency in their choice of work tools, to optimally organize their time and priorities.
At Adviso, we have spent more than 10 years investing our energy and passion into instituting solid project management practices for the benefit of our clients, our internal experts and to deliver the highest quality work.
After reading these few lines, are you ready to launch yourself into a career in project management?