Let’s just put it out there: project management is hard. On the surface, it might seem pretty straightforward—make sure the project is delivered on schedule and on budget. But project management is not just managing scope, time, and cost. It takes someone with the right attitude, leadership skills, and core personality characteristics. They must understand how projects succeed and fail, and have the ability to apply their project management knowledge throughout the life of the project.
Why do some Project Managers fail?
Sometimes it’s because the person assigned to the project simply is not the right fit. They might lack domain knowledge, personal skills, or an understanding of how projects work. Other times the Project Manager lacks the tools they need to juggle so many responsibilities. Then there are times when a perfectly capable Project Manager with the right set of tools is simply overwhelmed with the workload, as they try to manage a project while also handling the original job they were hired to do. Often it’s a combination of these factors that cause the project to come in over budget and behind schedule— and that’s if the project is completed at all. Most times when the Project Manager fails, the project fails, too.
It's common for organizations to fall prey to the “halo effect” when assigning the Project Manager role. The halo effect is when our overall impression of a person influences our understanding about a specific characteristic of them. Therefore, the tendency could be to promote someone who has done well as a member of a project team to become the Project Manager on the next project. For example, an effective subject matter expert on a project to develop an online giving strategy becomes the Project Manager on the new fundraising system implementation project. The idea is that because this person performed so well on the last project, they’ll do just as well on the next project.
What makes a qualified project manager?
Is there someone at your organization who has been assigned to manage a project? If so, how qualified would you say they are to develop and enforce a strategy to manage stakeholders? Or to define measurable objectives? How about estimating time and cost? Or managing changes deliberately throughout the life of the project? How qualified is the Project Manager to plan and oversee communications through various channels with internal staff and external vendors and consultants? How does the Project Manager identify, qualify, quantify, and plan responses for risks? And how does the Project Manager assemble and coach the project team to become efficient and work together in harmony?
The Project Manager must be able to lead the planning process on all aspects of the project, including scope, schedule, budget, risk, quality, communications, human resources, and procurement. The Project Manager goes through deliberate steps to initiate, plan, execute, monitor/control, and close projects. This level of project management ensures buy-in from stakeholders and ownership of the end-result.
What benchmarks should a successful Project Manager hit?
Success specific to project management means the Project Manager:
- had clear deliverables that were actionable and time-based;
- completed the project on budget and on time;
- managed and responded to risk;
- communicated appropriately with all stakeholders;
- took steps to assure quality; and
- managed change requests.
What do you recommend?
In most cases, we recommend that project management fall either to somebody whose sole job is to focus on the project or to a consultant. Remember, project management is a key component to a project’s overall success—don’t risk it!
At JCA, we’ve got you covered. We deliver successful projects by completing project management actions scaled to accommodate the complexities of each project.