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The Many Talents of A Project Manager

No two projects are the same. Neither are two project managers. They come with their own tools and techniques – from how they communicate and measure success, to how they handle stress.

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. 

People motivator

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:

  1. What motivates you will motivate others.
  2. People are primarily motivated by money.
  3. People want to receive formal rewards.
  4. The best PMs are strong cheerleaders.

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.

Proactive Mediator

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. 

Problem Mitigator

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.

They’re naturally skeptical

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.

Implementation Project

 

They’re Curious

A great PM is curious. They are curious about the business they are serving, the problems they are solving – even the little technical pieces involved in the work. This isn’t to say they need to be as proficient in code as a developer, but they should know enough about the technology to raise flags and ask the right questions.  Asking great questions is at the heart of managing any project successfully
 

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.

Planning a Salesforce implementation?

Make sure to read our DIY Implementation Guide to learn about all aspects of a successful implementation.

 

Author: Grant Ongstad, Senior Salesforce Consultant

 

References

Peterson, T. M. (2007). Motivation: how to increase project team performance. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2007—North America, Atlanta, GA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

 

The EightCloud team has been a truly amazing vendor to work with. The team members are very professional, provide everything on time or ahead of time and they have extensive technical knowledge. Working with the team was a breeze. They easily understood our requirements and provided us an even better solution than we expected. This has tremendously helped us be more efficient and allowed us to focus on actual work. Definitely recommend hiring this team!"

- Netsey Tefera, Zero to Three

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