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What makes a good project manager?

Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs


OneBusGuy.jpgFor any project to run smoothly and produce the desired outcomes it has to be lead by someone who can bring all the elements - and people involved - together to work towards achieving a common goal. This person is called the Project Manager.

While good leadership is crucial to the success of a project, it is not the only trait a good Project Manager must possess. This person should have good people skills, be a good communicator, have the foresight to assess potential risks, be a good strategist and also have the skills to manage the budget attached to the job.

Functions of the Project Manager

In a small business, it is often the same person who manages ad hoc projects together with his day-today management duties. For larger assignments, you may decide to hire a consultant to fill this position. But no matter who the person is, there is a specific set of criteria he has to fulfill during the course of his work.

The Project Manager must:

  • Be able to lead the project team by ensuring that they know exactly what is expected of them, what the deadlines are and then be able to motivate them throughout the process
  • Co-ordinate the various people involved and ensure that all stakeholders function in an organised manner. This includes any outside contractors or service providers that influence the outcome of the project
  • Ensure that the resources needed to complete the task are available and fall within the allocated budget
  • Identify potential risks that may affect the outcome, total cost or deadline. This includes things that could happen within the business or team, and the uncontrollable or external risks, such as the price of petrol going up
  • Develop a back-up plan to deal with these risks should they occur
  • Have a good communications plan that details how the various stakeholders will be communicated to during the task
  • Assess the quality of the final product to ensure that all specifications were met and that the client will be satisfied

It's clear that the "human" element is critical to the Project Manager performance, so it's in his best interest to develop a positive, mutually respectful relationship with everyone involved in making the project a success.

The importance of good communication

Part of the Project Manager's responsibilities is to communicate with all the relevant stakeholders from the beginning right through to completion. To ensure that this happens, he must:

  • Have a communications plan that lays out who needs to be communicated to, what they need to know, when they need to be given the information and how it will be given to them
  • Distribute the necessary details to the various stakeholders at the appropriate times. This will include progress reports, forecasts of whether deadlines and budgets will be met, and so on 
  • Provide a project report at the end of the assignment that details all the steps taken, whether these worked or not, the actual budget spent to complete the project and documentation of the hand-over to the client. The project report can also include recommendations for how to handle future projects, through lessons learnt this time 'round

The bottom line is that an effective Project Manager has to have vision, a mission and the will to complete his mission. If this hat is one of the many you have to wear in your business, these guidelines will go a long way in helping you.

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