Firstly, let me set out my credentials for writing this article. I have worked in project management both the public and private sector for the past 20 years. During that time, I have undertaken a wide range of projects for my clients, from small applications developments to large IT service mobilisation and transformation programmes. As Head of Projects, I also managed a team of 18 FTE made up of PMs, BAs, PMOs and Technical and Service Architects, delivering £10m+ annual project revenue. Suffice to say I have a history in project and programme management.

The Issue

Project Management often has a poor reputation for not being able to deliver the expected results or going over budget etc. A simple search on LinkedIn PM groups will provide you with more articles and posts on why projects fail and what can be done to reduce the risk of failure. Indeed, I was asked to present at a national conference a couple of years ago on the very subject of ‘why projects fail and what can be done to address this’. This, however, is not an article which delves into the myriad of reasons and solutions to achieving successful projects. The reasons Projects fail is simple; The Project Manager.

Now before I am inundated with messages from irate PMs telling me that their projects are complex and there are factors which are outside of their control etc… Let me be clear, a very good Project Manager will be able to mitigate and manage most of the risks and issues of their project, thus significantly increasing the prospect of success. A very good PM is worth their weight in gold. Yes, there will always be factors which are outside of the PMs control, but these factors should be the exception.

 

Where are all the Very Good PMs?

At the time of writing this article, there are more PM courses, qualifications, guides, tools, online resources etc., for project managers than at any time previous. Any idiot can become a Project Manager and indeed some are, which is part of the problem.

Project Management is too caught up in qualifications and certificates aimed at process, procedures and methodologies. Don’t get me wrong all this is needed, but what is missing is a module on common sense, thinking out of the box, being creative and finding solutions to problems.

Over the years I a have interviewed countless people from Project Management positions. All of which appear, from their CVs, to be experienced PM professionals. They can recite Prince2, may have PMP and generally give standard answers to standard PM questions. What they lack, is much more important than Prince2/PMP knowledge. What they lack are personality and dynamism. As a result, they lack the ability to think on their feet and to anticipate problems and respond in innovative and creative ways. It would be no exaggeration to say that at the end of some interviews I feel like I have attended a wake. All that is missing are the sausage rolls and the grieving relatives. The candidates show no enthusiasm or dynamism. Personality is a major contributory factor in successful project management.

Good project management is not ‘painting by numbers’, it’s being able to build good working relationships with all stakeholders and taking ownership of the project’s success. I have seen so many PMs who, when presented with a problem they are not used to, go into either a tailspin or look to pass the buck upwards or downwards.

A very good PM must be engaging, enthusiastic, empathetic to the client’s needs and importantly have a sense of humour.  Do not underestimate the importance of humour in a PM. Not only can it help to defuse difficult situations but used correctly can help bring sometimes difficult people onside. We all need to be able to laugh at ourselves occasionally rather than others laughing at us.

Yes, I want PMs who have experience but as important I want PMs who are smart and have personality.

 

“If you can hire people whose passion intersects with the job, they won’t require any supervision at all. They will manage themselves better than anyone could ever manage them. Their fire comes from within, not from without. Their motivation is internal, not external.”

– Stephen Covey, Author of “7 habits of effective people”

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