Nov 17th, 2021
At EightCloud, we recognize that as a critical part of any implementation, it’s important that your project manager is equipped with the qualities and characteristics they need to succeed.
A project manager ultimately relies on other people to execute successfully. Their success is largely determined by how well they can motivate others.
People are different. They are motivated by different things. A great project manager can work with a variety of people and puts effort into understanding what motivates them. This could be autonomy, recognition, or just being a part of something bigger than themselves.
Tonya M. Peterson of the Project Management Institute lays out some common motivation mistakes in the article Motivation: How to increase project team performance. Here are a few assumptions that can cause problems:
On the contrary, PMs should try to identify others’ unique motivational differences and understand that feeling valued as an individual or team is often more motivating than money or other rewards. Rather than simply rooting for the team, project managers should take an active role as a helpful leader and mentor.
I’m sure you’ve experienced a project manager who just seems to schedule hours of meetings or passes information from one party to another. A great project manager facilitates great conversations because they know the high-level goals of the project and where each workstream fits within it. When a project manager is involved in a conversation, the outcome should be clarity.
Here is an example of poor project management:
Jimmy Project Manager: How is that task coming along?
Sally Developer: That is not yet complete, I need to have the sandbox refreshed by Kim first.
Jimmy Project Manager: Ok, I’ll tell Kim.
Jimmy: Hey Kim, Sally needs the Sandbox refreshed.
Kim: Which one? The Full Sandbox or the Partial Sandbox? We have some functionality in both that still has to be deployed. When does she need it refreshed by?
Jimmy Project Manager: Uh…Hold on. I’ll ask Sally.
You get the picture. How could a project manager be a facilitator instead?
Jimmy: Hi Sally, I know you have some development work to deploy but I’m assuming that you’ll need to coordinate with the release manager. I’ve proposed a few times tomorrow for you and Kim to discuss the release strategy. What time works for you?
Sally: Thanks! 3pm Would be best.
A great project manager can engage in important conversations, not just schedule them. They apply knowledge about the project and its dependencies to unpack complex workflows and propel the project forward. Since they’re uncomfortable when projects have uncertainties, they seek and provide clarity.
A project manager holds the line. The buck stops with them. They need to have difficult conversations with clients early and often. When a potential problem arises, they bring it to the forefront and drill into it, rather than hoping it goes away. A difficult conversation might be about scope creep – saying ‘no’ and pushing back on requests that could take time away from their resources. Or it may be about calling out a risk, even if its exposure is untimely or may upset the client.
This also means having difficult conversations with members of the project team when performance issues arise. While this doesn’t mean acting ‘tough,’ it does involve asking for accountability and working through issues.
As the old saying goes, “Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.” Project managers understand that projects are complex and assume that there will likely be surprises along the way. This by no means suggests that project managers expect failure. Rather, since they can imagine every way that something may go wrong, they do everything in their control to mitigate risk. Some of the ways that this may manifest itself are:
1) Pushing Back. Being able to have difficult conversations with clients about resources and deliverables. Pushing back on scope increases and unrealistic timelines.
2) Trust but Verify. Great project managers must foster relationships of trust within their team. However, they also need to verify their work. This can happen by agreeing on a definition of ‘done’ early on. Too often project managers take an explanation, without understanding it, as proof of ‘done.’
3) Backup Plans. Because projects are complex, great project managers have backup plans, just in case an unforeseen surprise occurs.
The project manager is the center of every successful project. It’s easy to assume that their role is someone who checks items off a list and schedules meetings. However, great project managers are much more than that. They are respected among their team because they get it. They’re knowledgeable about the business and the work. They’re able to propel work forward by critically engaging with team members and breaking down complexity. Perhaps most importantly, they’re great at identifying and mitigating risk early. Great project managers plan upfront instead of fighting fires later on.
Author: Grant Ongstad, Senior Salesforce Consultant
We engaged EightCloud to assist us with the development and implementation of a custom application. EightCloud provided outstanding service and expertise throughout the life of the project. I’ve been managing projects in the public sector for nearly 15 years and can’t remember an engagement that went smoother than this one. Their expertise and responsiveness was as good as I’ve experienced in the industry. I would not hesitate to partner with EightCloud again."
- Tim Vessey, Washington Department of Natural Resources
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