Organizations (both for profit and not) set out to actually achieve their goals, not just to set goals for the sake of having them, right? Why is it, then, that most of these same businesses overlook one of the most critical aspects of goal achievement? Having solid project managers that can make it actually happen!
If you don’t have skilled project managers, garbage in will still equal garbage out – no matter how amazing your tools and technology are!
Solid project managers (PM) are the very people responsible for making their organizational goal(s) come to life, yet they are often an after-thought. PMs are the very people that take those organizational goals, break them down into manageable (and ACTIONABLE) chunks, and assign them to the various roles needed – people with the right technical skills to handle their part in the project. The PMs actually get the project moving, and continue to monitor to make sure they progress in the right direction. You cannot achieve your goals, your vision, and your strategy, without this. But how do you find the right PM? First, you need to understand how to look!
Here’s what you need to do to hire a great project manager:
- Stop Hiring the Plumber to Do the Electrician’s Job
If you need electrical work done, who would you call, a plumber or an electrician? Seems like a silly question, I know, but why is it that we seem to call on non-PM’s to suddenly become PM’s, then? Sure, these people are probably great people, have great people skills, or maybe they are well-liked, and that’s all great! But, it isn’t enough! Solid performing project managers take much more than just a fancy title change. In fact, even a certification hardly means you have a quality project manager on your hands! Understanding this is your first step.
- Be More Specific in Your Search
Don’t advertise the project management job using generic criteria like “Communicates well”, or “Works well with others”. Those are great traits to have, but being this vague is a sure way to receive a lot of unqualified applicants! While it may take some time up-front, it will save you time and frustration later if you are more specific in your description of the work you need done. Solid project managers can work on almost any kind of project because their skills are transferable regardless of industry. That said, many have worked multiple project types and have preferences in the area they want to work! Being clear with exactly what you’re looking for will help to attract the PMs that are looking for that kind of PM position.
- A Technical Expert is Almost Never the Best Approach
Unless your project is relatively small and not very complex, asking your project manager to also serve as your technical expert is a bad approach. The same goes for using this approach in reverse (asking a technical subject matter expert to also be your PM).
Do you really expect your project manager to be amazing at managing the entire project, as well as someone who can understand the intricate differences and designs behind every network router and switch? Why not hire a network engineer for that, and let your project manager do their actual job – as a project manager? A solid project manager’s knowledge runs a mile wide and an inch deep in the topic area – anything they don’t know in the topic area could be easily learned. Anything detailed and technical they need to know in the topic area, they should be able to reach out to the technical subject matter experts to obtain information on.
Simply put, there are entire Masters and Doctorate degree programs set up around being a PM – this is a technical area of subject matter expertise (SME) in and of itself, and for good reason! You wouldn’t ask an Eye Doctor to work on your heart, would you? Then why would you ask a Systems Engineer to suddenly become your Project Manager, and expect them to know how to effectively do it?
- Specify the Framework(s) To Work Within
Do you want a quick deliverables in small pieces? Perhaps you want it Agile. Do you want to know the resources needed before you even begin? Then you’re looking at Waterfall (which even Agile must do, by the way). Are you looking to gain process efficiencies? Then Lean Six Sigma might be what you’re after.
The reality is, there are growing numbers of project management frameworks, and I’ve found that they all have overlap. Very few are actual methodologies, too, which is why I’m calling them “frameworks”. Most are framework within which to work, which is why I believe that, regardless of framework preference, I would require all project managers have keen awareness to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Why? Because it isn’t a framework or a methodology, it’s a comprehensive body of knowledge on all things project management and remains relevant regardless of framework preference.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an actual methodology, consider Projects In Controlled Environments (PRINCE2), a UK standard. The point here is that thinking one framework or method alone is the “answer to all”, is probably not the case. Having a well-rounded PM should be knowledgeable of the various frameworks available.
- Understand the Strategy
Many project managers live deep in their project management bubble, without any realization of how their project actually fits into the overall organizational strategy. When looking for a project manager, consider one that is knowledgeable enough to describe the context within which their projects have performed. They should be able to articulate how their project impacted the business.
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