5 Key Abilities of an IT Project Manager

In an earlier blog post “Why IT projects fail (and organisations go nuclear)” we used the analogy “dog with fleas” for project failure. In it, we listed a number of early warning signs that will help you recognise and address problems before things go nuclear. We did caveat those listed as only some of the early warning signs. It is a lucky thing too because we did not include the helicopter view.

Though there is a whole host of skills, knowledge areas and methodologies to consider, being a successful project manager comes down to an ability to do a few key things very, very well:

  • Communicate: communication doesn’t mean talking. Whether your audience is your team, an executive or a customer you need to be able to communicate your ideas. Ensure they are understood, rather than simply heard.
  • Organise: you need to be a good juggler. You need to be able to keep track of multiple things at once and in an organised manner. The trick is not to find yourself in a state of overwhelm.
  • Solve problems/make decisions: you need to keep the “big picture” in mind while also working on the specifics. To coin (someone else’s) phrase the project manager must be “the general” and the foot soldier. We’ll return to Sun Tzu later in this article.

Back to problem and decision. When faced with a problem work at really analysing the problem and compile a list of alternative solutions. When trying to solve the problem remember to focus on the problem you are trying to solve then you will not get lost in “the forest or the trees”.

Painting by Ralph Steadman
Painting by Ralph Steadman
  • Build teams: your project team defines the project’s success. You don’t always get to choose your team but you can choose how to manage your team. Get good stuff out of them. Engage your team. Motivate them. An engaged and motivated team will perform at a higher level. How? Share your vision. Paint a clear picture of the outcome. Empower them to build their own paths to success. Develop the project’s critical path with your team. Involve them. Make the project real to them!

Back to The Art of War. Sun Tzu states that aleader should be wise (in making decisions), trustworthy (should inspire trust), caring (taking care of the team), courageous (to make tough choices), and strict (in ensuring compliance).” Sometimes however the general needs to get into the trenches to inspire his or her team. To set an example, the project manager should roll up his or her sleeves. When you work with the team in the areas where you can contribute, you send a strong message because you are showing that you are part of the team with your actions not just managing and directing. To quote Thomas Edison “vision without execution is hallucination.”

See you next time! If you have liked what you have read please like and remember to share.