How to spot a good PM…

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“Superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer”
– William Shakespeare

At Slalom we have lots of roles:  Business Analysts, Change Management Specialists, Developers and even Project Managers.  But since project management is still not widely recognized as a “profession” with its own distinct capabilities and skills, how does one know if PM is the right role? To answer that question, I’m borrowing from Brad Egelands May 7, 2009 article “Five Signs You Aren’t Cut Out to be a Project Manager”, but have spun his messaging to a more positive perspective.  These are some of the criteria against which Slalom assesses its own PM’s.

Let’s look at five signs that indicate you may make a good project manager.

1.  You Like People more than Technology

If you like working with people, organizations and yes…politics, then you may make a good project manager.  PMs are often thrust into customer-facing roles and are looked upon to lead a team of skilled resources on projects.  They must be ready to present materials, lead status meetings and status calls, initiate ad-hoc communication, and just in general be very confident dealing with people.

If you prefer technology more than people you may be more of a fit for the role of the techie on the project – the person who develops the solution, not the individual who maps out how and when it will be delivered. By the way, we absolutely have super techies at Slalom!

2.  You can Balance the People / Technical Equation

A good PM must have technical skills in order to be trusted, understood, and followed by the technical resources they are leading on a long project.  Technical does not necessarily mean technology or IT.  As a PM in a marketing organization or a distribution company, technical competency in marketing analytics or supply chain would be very beneficial.  If you are just all about the people part of the role, you may not be well suited to the PM career.

You might get away with it on a very short engagement just by being a strong, confident leader.  But on a 6-12 month engagement or longer you’ll be exposed and the technical team will question decisions, judgment, plans or worse!  Be cautious that the role you take is not too far astray from your core technical competencies.

 3.  You Handle Pressure Well

Being a PM means you have the target on your forehead for the entire project.  The Project Manager has to stay on top of status, project schedules, issues, risks and all project communications constantly.  Pressure is frequent throughout the project.

If you don’t handle pressure well, then being a PM is probably not the best choice for you.

4.  You Don’t Need Constant Recognition and Praise

It is hard to get recognition, and much harder to get good recognition than bad recognition. On the surface, much of the good recognition for a successful project will often go to the technical resources that developed the solution.  This, of course, depends on the company, but it is common…and it’s ok.  The developers likely did great work on a successful solution.  You led, but you didn’t create…and that’s ok.

If you are one who needs constant praise, then a Project Management path is probably not for you.  It’s rewarding, but most of your rewards will likely come from the relationships you build on your teams with your team members and with your customer, not from the overflowing of praise and recognition you hope to get on a project.

5.  You are a Good Problem Solver

Being a PM means you’re required to be a confident decision-maker.  Look to your team and other available resources – including your customer – as sources to help you solve issues and make decisions.  But if you’re inclined to run from problems or put them off and hope that they resolve themselves or that someone else steps up to solve them, then a PM career is not for you.

At every critical problem point, both your team and your customer’s team are going to look to you as the key leader and decision-maker and you can’t back down.  If you’re shaky in your decision-making or tend to be wishy-washy when it comes to problem solving and leadership, seek a different path for your own good.

Well, I’m slowly building my stock of white hairs, but hope that my competency will prevent me from becoming superfluous.

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About Carl M. Manello
I am Slalom Consulting's Practice Lead for Delivery Effectiveness. I work to support organizations' capability and delivery maturity -- not just IT organizations -- so that their initiatives run more predictably, efficiently and provide the best results.

3 Responses to How to spot a good PM…

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