The project manager’s challenge

What makes a good project manager?

Pause momentarily and capture your first thought to answer that question. Most of us answer the question with attributes like setting proper priorities, keeping command of a group, effectively communicating, showing domain expertise, or resolving conflict. It would be rare to hear someone answer the question in terms of keeping tasks and a schedule. Yet this is one the most fundamental skills an IT project manager needs to have; the ability to drive a team to define and set a schedule. Why do task status and schedules encounter the most resistance in the life of the project? I think it’s because team members don’t like to give estimates and to be held accountable for meeting a specific schedule. To be fair estimating working duration isn’t easy and it’s not uncommon in IT to have partial requirements. 

“I’m not going to win any popularity contests”

An employee assigned to manage projects told me that a few years ago. Without missing a beat I replied “You aren’t paid to win popularity contests. But you are asked to be persistent to deliver results.” The context of the comment was about trying to get current status from team members so that the project could adhere to the schedule and deliver results. If you’ve ever served as an IT project manager, you know that feeling when team members are evasive and try to avoid contact.

The intangibles build the foundation for making a solid project manager.

All the intangible characteristics and traits that you thought of that make a good project manager are the very things that earn them the respect to gather task and schedule information more easily. When team members respect the PM for their domain knowledge, communication style, and demeanor they are more likely to provide better task and schedule data. That’s the opposite of how project management is taught in a classroom setting where core skills about documenting project scope and timeline are first. So I would suggest that to be a more effective project manager one should work on their business acumen and relational skills first. Then applying fundamental PM skills around scope, risk, and execution will become much easier.

Onward and upward!

(Photo credit: Generation Bass –

2 Replies to “The project manager’s challenge”

Comments are closed.