What Makes a Good Project Manager?

I recently celebrated my 20th anniversary of having achieved my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.  The last 20 years have seen tremendous change in the field of project management.  Google had just started a couple of years earlier, and Facebook hadn’t even been invented yet.  The changes in technology and in our society have presented a lot of challenges and opportunities to project managers.  However, the fundamental truth of project management remains.  Project managers get things done.

Project managers are, by our very nature, people who get things done.  We organize, we communicate, we hold people accountable.  We define the scope of our projects and pursue our goals with dogged determination.  We don’t have all the answers, but we know where to go get them.  The phrase “it’s not my job” is not in our vocabulary.  When something goes wrong, we step up to the plate and we bring people together to tackle the biggest challenges.  We are responsible.  We are flexible.  We are determined.  We are… project managers.

Technology changes.  People change.  Culture changes.  And so do project managers.  But our core function has remained the same as with the large weapons development projects of World War II.  If you ask any project manager “how do you eat an elephant?”, the response will invariably be “one bite at a time”.  The tools we use have evolved and improved.  The human resources we rely on may change their priorities, their focus, and their capabilities.  But we still need to find the right resource for the job, we still need to break down the project into manageable chunks, and we still need to set priorities and deadlines.  And we need to make sure everyone who needs to know, knows.

I have fewer project management years ahead of me than behind me, and in all this time I will share that the most important tool in my toolbox has been the relationships that I’ve built with my teams.  Whether project resources, resource managers, stakeholders, or fellow project managers, developing strong relationships with them has helped me complete more projects successfully than not, and has helped me grow in my career. 

If you are just starting your journey into project management, or you are a seasoned veteran, mind the relationships with all the people that have a role to play in your project.  Keeping open, honest lines of communication with them will go a long way to helping you be a successful project manager.  Oh, and be sure to get your PMP.

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