When faced with a stack of resumes in the search for a project manager, my goal is to identify those candidates that are stellar; beyond qualified.
There are project managers…and then there are stellar project managers. Being on time and staying within budget is important, and are often what we hear as the measure of a project manager. But I’m more interested in understanding a candidate’s ability to gain trust and have success in a diverse landscape of human interactions.
What Makes a Stellar Project Manager?
- Stellar project managers are those that rise above all others because they put the needs of the organization before their own.
- They dig deeper than expected to discover the true value of the project, expose conflicts and risks and identify areas for improvement.
- They feel a sense of responsibility to create an enduring result while ensuring the needs of those affected by the project are addressed.
- They are not only skilled at the technical aspect of project management, such as managing a budget and a schedule, and facilitating discussions and workshops; they have compassion and they are humble.
Stellar Project Managers Don’t Just Take Orders
It’s the project charter and accompanying statement of work, along with organizational standards, methods, and processes that provide guidance to a project manager. Is it the project manager’s responsibility to challenge these?
Indeed it is, as there may be many unanswered questions:
- Are the project objectives clearly defined?
- Is the project aligned with strategic direction or the demands of the market?
- Is the organization well positioned to support the outcome of the project?
A stellar project manager is always scanning the environment, internally and externally, to ensure the project has valid purpose and is aligned with organizational goals.
Stellar Project Managers Focus On Value Realization
Ensuring the project delivers the expected value should be the goal of all those involved with the project. Yet oftentimes not enough care is given to quantifying the benefits. The stellar project manager not only seeks to define the returned value expected, but builds a mechanism to measure this return during the project, after the project, with check points in the future.
Stellar Project Managers Are The First To Kill The Project
If closing down a project results in loss of employment or compensation, then the stellar project manager will do so, if necessary. If expending more and more resources on a project will no longer return any value, or if a project will actually harm the organization, someone needs to stop the process. Who better to expose such an opportunity than the project manager, who can communicate the case to those that need to make the ultimate decision?
Stellar Project Managers Uncover The Ugly
What are the quality requirements of a project, and what are the risks to achieving them? In addressing these questions, the stellar project manager knows that they’re going to have crucial conversations and they are going to be challenged by the status quo. Yet the jewels of truth are waiting to be discovered to those that understand the importance. To shy away from conflict and risk will ensure project failure at worst or mundane results at best.
Stellar Project Managers Know That People Are More Important Than Process
Having an approved, documented, socialized and well-understood project management process is essential to an organization. However, following it in excruciating detail is not. A methodology provides a foundation for expectations and behavior, but it is not law. The stellar project manager knows that the environment is dynamic and that people are unpredictable.
With every project comes an element of change, which may require people to learn new skills or adopt new processes. In many cases, people will no longer be able to perform tasks that they have clearly mastered or those where they have excelled. The stellar project manager not only understands their role in helping others learn to shine in new ways, they enjoy seeing others have success.
Stellar Project Managers Feel Responsible For Future State
What defines the end of the project? Do you shut the door and turn off the lights, assuming someone else will pick up where you left off? The stellar project manager feels a sense of responsibility for ensuring the project delivers lasting results. This is not something that is addressed as the project comes to close. This is something that is thought of during planning, with proper change management activities woven into the fabric of the project. Included in this planning will be a mechanism to measure adoption of the project outcome as a process going forward, with a mindfulness for identifying improvements over time.
Stellar Project Managers Admit When They Are Wrong
The humble project manager knows they don’t always have the answers; they seek input from every source, never discounting the value of information from those outside the circle of influence. Certainly, the experts provide most of the project requirements and are best able to help identify project risk. However, those on the periphery often have a unique perspective that a stellar project manager will appreciate. While a stellar project manager rarely insists they are right in a matter, they are also quick to admit when they are wrong.
Even if a stellar project manager is unable to perform in the manner in which they prefer, due to organizational culture or denial, they will at least have the knowledge and courage to point out the gaps and bring the deficiencies to the attention of those that can influence change. If their contributions in identifying opportunities for improved performance are unwelcome, they will seek employment with an organization that appreciates their capabilities.
I hope they give me a call.