I have been in the project management for the last 26 years and one of the questions I get asked all the time is “How do I get started in project management?”. That question I believe is rooted in a couple different areas and I would like to think that it is around how one becomes a good project manager. Now the term “good” is relative right, someone’s good, is someone else’s great while it is another person’s terrible. I don’t want to debate that, I want to focus on what is important and that is the 12 things you can do right away to be a good project manager.
These steps include (In no particular order of importance)
- Project Management is not easy and you have to continue to learn. Take classes and continue to learn and read about project management will only make you better. Continue to learn.
- Get yourself a mentor or someone you can bounce ideas off. I have had two very close friends that I have bounce ideas off for years and you need one too. Get someone quick, and get help on the tough areas of your projects.
- Join project management groups and associations. Spend time and learn from other practitioners because they are in the trenches along side of you and can learn from others mistakes.
- Understand the art and science of project management. This is something that you will learn very quickly that relationships and influencing without authority will be a huge part of running a successful project. Learn this quickly.
- Rarely will you have functional teams reporting to you. Your role as project manager will be leading a team from Kick-off to Deployment but rarely do these team members every direct line report to you. So, you will need to learn to manage a team without having authority over these team members. This makes life very difficult to say to your team “Hey, I need you to work over the weekend” when they don’t report to you directly.
- 6 Be known as the SME of whatever methodology your company uses. Get Certified. Project Management is about the end to end experience and don’t let software (Agile or Waterfall) dedicate how you will do your job. Development methodologies in Information Technology (IT) do not drive how a project is managed end to end. Remember that!
- Project Communications is going to be one of the top things you do on your job. As you get into project management and around it for a while, you will hear that “90% of a project manager’s job is communications”. Well, if that is the case, then why and what do you think you are doing for most of your day?
- Consider the Contracting/Vendor route over being an employee. In Information Technology (IT) for example, an employee project manager is not as valued as a project manager who is a vendor or contractor. Large organizations tend to value these roles in the vendor or contractor capacity.
- Project Managers become much more valuable to their project teams when they learn about the project they are managing. When project managers have the business knowledge and can understand the business problem that is trying to be resolved, they understand much better what is going on and can help deliver a successful project. Project Managers who look wide and not deep lose a huge opportunity to understand the business better and become more valuable to the company. The caveat to this is that most project managers are assigned 4-5 projects at a single time making it almost impossible to deep on any one project.
- Projects Fail – Don’t take it personally, use a learning opportunity. The percentage of projects that come in on time, on budget, and delivering the value to the business is very low. Expect your projects will fail, but learn from those failures. There is not a project manager out there that has not failed a project or two, but the good one rise above from the failures and learn from those mistakes.
- Collect Lessons Learned Information from the start of the project. Stop letting people convince you that you will collect Lessons Learned information at the end of the project because it is never going to happen. Most team members will be long gone and won’t come back to help you collect Lessons Learned information on a project that they are no longer on. They don’t care!! Collecting this information at the beginning of the project and throughout will allow you to make course corrections along the way.
- Embrace the role – Being a Project Manager is one of the best jobs in the world! Be proud, not everyone can do it!!
That’s it, just these 12 easy steps and once you master them, you can consider yourself as a project manager. No, just kidding, but if you do follow these steps, you will setting yourself up to be a very successful project manager.
Interested in learning more about becoming a project manager?
Bill Dow, PMP
Here are some articles that you may be interested in:
Check out this article I wrote on this subject for www.projectmanagement.com on PMO’s. https://www.projectmanagement.com/articles/280385/Implementing-a-PMO–Does-it-Have-to-be-So-Hard-
Check out this article I wrote on How to implement successful Change in our Personal Love and Professional Careers
Check out this article I wrote on “Top Project Management Communication Tools”