“Not everyone can be a Project Manager” it is said. Or at least, that’s what I heard in a conversation yesterday. “You should be able to see what’s coming, control the steps, and take over when things are not working properly. Yes, you can learn the technicalities, but to be a really good Project Manager, you have to have it in you.”
Do you agree?
Do you think it takes a specific set of skills, that you either possess, or don’t have at all?
A few evenings ago I met with a younger student, member of an organization I’ve been part of, to coach her on selecting participants for a conference. We talked about the purpose of the conference, profile of participants, what partners would look like, and realized there’s not much time to prepare the selection.
What a surprise.
So we took out a piece of paper and jotted down the calendar weeks up to the time of the conference. We figured out how much we’d need for each step, and drew the milestones. Then we agreed on the critical steps that needed to be taken as soon as possible. And we agreed to meet again in a few weeks.
That was some very good Project Management we did there.
And I slipped very comfortably into my old role as Recruiting Manager/Employer Branding, organizing events, realizing that we don’t have the materials we need in time, realizing we don’t have a speaker, figuring out where to get participants from. And getting people on board to help, and finally solving them.
On the other hand, I am a total mess when it came to organize my house move.
Or decide how to put things in boxes.
And I remember I would have panicked and crashed many times in the course of my wedding planning, had not my love been beside me to shake me to my senses.
So that makes me a good or a bad Project Manager?
I think that to be a great Project Manager you’d need two things:
1. An excellent sense of what needs to be done by when.
That can be done by simply dragging a piece of paper or calendar and marking milestones.
Sometimes it will work, sometimes not.
Leave generous buffers.
I remember doing a detailed daily plan for the week before my wedding, and having the inspiration to leave one day completely open. That was a life savior.
2. Knowing who’s best at doing what. Matching resources to needs.
For example, I am in luck of having a very detail-oriented husband, when it comes to the small stuff. I may be good at setting dates and figuring out what needs to happen by when, but if I need to pack a suitcase and organize boxes, I’m hopeless. I will stuff them all in and jump on the lid to make it close. He will fold them neatly, he will wrap socks into shoes to make them fit better, and use every small space to put another cable in.
Talk about being complementary.
Sometimes, you won’t have the luxury of having the perfect resource next to you. You will have to determine what you need, and search for it. For example, do you think it would make sense to organize an event and paint your own advertising posters, by hand?
Or rather hire a good graphic designer, and send them to a printing house to have them done in 3 days?
Many poor Project Managers try to do everything on their own. Or fail miserably at finding good resources. Or imagine that, if they don’t have the budget, they must be a one-man-orchestra.
I think if you have the two from above, you should be off pretty well.
With that, I will now go and organize my living room.