12 Traits of Successful Project Management

I wanted to share some thoughts from a good book that I recently read.  It’s called Scrappy Project Management: The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces by Kimberly Wiefling.

The author describes scrappy as leading without a title, taking risks, doing the right thing, having steely resolve, making a difference, and totally committed to extraordinary results.  All good qualities of a successful project manager, I think.

Here are the Wiefling’s 12 keys to scrappiness and effective project management: 

1. Be completely obsessed with the Client.
In today’s economy especially, customers are looking for value beyond the primary business transaction.   Truly understanding your customer will help you deliver more value in creative ways.

2. Provide crystal clear project goals and be accountable.
Stephen Covey’s Habit #2 comes to mind here.  A great project manager has a clear vision and understanding of success, can clearly communicate it to the team, and knows how to hold people accountable for their commitments.

3. Communicate clearly and effectively in all directions.
The best Project Managers know that it’s their sole responsibility to make sure their message is received and understood.  Use a variety of communication tools and know which ones work best for each team member.

4. Define roles and responsibilities of all team members.
From my experience the clearer the team member’s responsibilities, the more accountable they are.  Make sure there are no gray areas in your project roles and scopes of work.

5. Create a viable schedule with total team commitment.
Your project is won or lost in the planning stages.  Projects without a thoughtful, detailed, and realistic schedule are doomed from day 1.  Schedules become much more effective when they are created collaboratively.

6. Identify the big risk items and mitigate them early.
Spending a few hours with your team identifying the biggest risks of a project might be the best meeting you will ever have.  We evaluate the risk of things like custom equipment with long lead times, unknown site conditions, weather, and schedule requirements and have plans A, B, and C identified before we start.

7. Prioritize ruthlessly.
Everything can’t be critical.  If it is, your project is in trouble.  Great Project Managers understand the value of each project task and when resources are limited, they know where to direct them.

8. Anticipate and accommodate change.
In our industry we are constantly walking a fine line between planning for the known and anticipating the unknown.  Change is inevitable and is best when embraced, not fought.

9. Challenge assumptions and self-imposed limitations.
Don’t let a great idea get killed by an incorrect assumption.  If you must make assumptions, at least challenge them wisely.

10. Manage the client’s expectations.
A great time for both parties to establish the expectations for your project is before signing the contract.  Ask really good questions in the beginning to find out what your customer expects.  Make sure their expectations are realistic.  And then deliver!

11. Learn from experience and mistakes.
All seasoned Project Managers have all been kicked in the teeth at some point in their careers.  The ones that learn from their mistakes and don’t make the same ones twice are valued.

12. Have an attitude of gratitude and thank those who helped you succeed.
When we complete a project, especially a demanding one, we make sure to personally thank those who contributed to its success.  It might just be a handwritten note and a gift card.  The point is to foster of culture of gratitude in your organization.  It is contagious.  And appreciated.

Rich Shannon
Vice President

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