Do you have what it takes to be a project manager?

The field of project management has intrigued me for the past three years – ever since I participated in a project to implement a new accounting system at work. While I was only an individual contributor on the project representing finance, I had an opportunity to observe the project leader in action. After the project concluded, I walked away impressed by his discipline and decision making ability under stressful situations. I have since wondered if I can succeed as a project manager.

After taking this class and interviewing a project manager, I am starting to wonder if project management is suited for me. After reading the article “Do you have what it takes to be a project manager” by Moira Alexander on, I may be convinced that project management is not for me.  Moira has identified 8 facets of the job to decide if it is the right career choice for you. Do you think you have what it takes? Do you think you can handle the things listed below?

Project management is fast-paced:  Project management is often fast-paced and filled with deadlines and shifting priorities. You are constantly challenged with new obstacles. If you thrive in fast paced environment, then you have passed the first gate in your decision to be a project manager.

Project management comes with an abundance of uncertainty:  As we saw in class with the resource and cost assignment exercise, things can change from week to week. Uncertainty is a big part of projects. Being able to deal with uncertainty under duress is a big part of being a good project manager. Do you think you can handle not knowing what’s lurking in the background waiting to jump in and ruin your plans?

Project management involves constant pressure and stress:  One of the constants in project management is persistent pressure and stress. You are constantly juggling multiple things. Are you someone who can stand the heat?

Project management means dealing with continual change:  Due dates, deliverables, costs and resource availability can change without any notice. As a good project manager, you are expected to adapt to change and handle certain level of chaos in your life. Do you think you can handle continual change? If you are someone who likes structure and routine in your life, this may not be the field for you.

Project management means multiple deadlines:  Prioritizing and managing multiple deadlines are essential part of successful project management. Project deadlines are constantly evaluated and maybe altered. This can require you to balance human and financial resources, and can also impact the quality of the product or services being delivered.

Project management means dealing with internal and external conflict:  Dealing with difficult people is one of the most dreaded aspects of project management. However, this is an essential skill for good project managers. Being able to influence people require skills and tact. Are you able to work with people and be prepared to set aside your ego and opinion?

Project manager have demanding schedules:  If you are looking for a 9-5 job, project management is not for you. As stated in the article, “project managers often “eat, sleep and breathe” project management from the initiation through to the close-out”. Burnout is a serious issue for project teams and especially project managers.

Project management requires exceptional organization skills:  Exceptional organizational skills are a must-have for successful project managers. Being able to handle all the things mentioned above requires great organizational skills.

Now that you have an idea of what the job entails, are you up for the challenge? Do you have what it takes to be a project manager?



7 Ways Project Managers Can Anticipate, Avoid and Mitigate Problems

Big projects consume a lot of resources and time with some spanning over years and costing millions of dollars. However, multiple studies have shown that over half of the projects fail and these failures have devastating consequences to companies in terms of econ cost and employee morale (1).

As a result, it’s important to have a good Project Manager (PM) to oversee a project. One of the strengths of being a good PM is being able to anticipate problems and deal with them timely and effectively when they arise. In the article, “7 Ways Project Managers can Anticipate, Avoid, and Mitigate Problems”, Jennifer Lonoff identifies 7 problems good PMs face and what they do (summarized below) do to anticipate, avoid or mitigate them.

Problem No. 1: Team members not knowing or understanding what their responsibilities are, not owning their part of the project.

Author: Good project managers let team members know, up front, who is responsible for what – and clearly lay out expectations.

My thoughts: I feel that for a project to be successful, it’s important to get a buy in from all the team members. Many times, the directives come from senior management and the members may not be confident in the project. This makes a PM’s job very difficult. I believe a good PM or even a good Functional Manager will find ways to get the team engaged and make them feel that their contributions are valuable to the project.

Problem No. 2: Having key personnel pulled off the project, either temporarily or permanently.

Author: Use a “project management system that provides resource visibility and forecasting tools, so PMs can [quickly make decisions, re-allocate resources and] ultimately reduce schedule thrash. Another way is by convincing management that removing a vital team member could delay the project (or worse).

My thoughts: It’s not unusual to lose key members of a project while the project is still ongoing. While it may be worth the effort to convince senior management that pulling a key member could have adverse effects on your project, it’s mostly futile to try because they have already made the decision and won’t change their mind. As a PM, you are expected to deliver no matter what the obstacles. One way to mitigate this problem could be to cross train team members or have a contingency plan for each team member, which could be time consuming and challenging.

Problem No. 3: Meeting deadlines.

Author: Assign team members specific deadlines for their parts of the project and the dates given are always much earlier than needed. This way if something needs to be fixed, there is plenty of time for changes and another review.

Bottom of Form

My thoughts: I agree with the author it could be good to assign an earlier deadline to the team, however, you have to be careful not to make it too early that it puts undue pressure on the team members. In addition, it would be helpful to break the projects into smaller chunks so to manage it better.

Problem No. 4: Scope creep.

Author: A good PM will need to document the change, validate, assess its impacts, find a solution and have the change request approved before executing the solution. A great PM, however, will do proactive risk and quality management throughout; and not just react to changes,

My thoughts: Scope creep is a common with most projects. As a PM, it’s your responsibility to manage scope creep; otherwise, the project can be easily derailed. It’s important for PMs to exert their authority when needed and say no. Any changes to the original scope should be thoroughly evaluated before any decisions are made.

Problem No. 5: Not being aware there is a problem or potential problem.

Author: A successful PM should have standing weekly [or more frequent] status meetings with team members, to check if everything was achieved as per the timeline; what issues, if any, anybody is facing and remove them; and, if required, re-plan certain tasks. Another way is to utilize collaborative task tracking software.

My thoughts: A good PM should be aware of what each team member is working on and have constant communication about status. This can be accomplished with software or by other means. This way, the PM is able to anticipate any potential problems and deal with them promptly and effectively.

Problem No. 6: Managing and collaborating with team members in different locations and time zones.

Author: Using a mobile collaboration tool for communication.

My thoughts: A mobile collaboration tool is very important. Frequent calls with each team member could also be effective to maintain good communication.

Problem No. 7: Lack of communication, or hostility, among team members.

Author: A good project manager checks in regularly with team members, either by phone or in person, to see how things are going – and if there are any professional or personal issues that could affect the project, which need to be addressed.

My thoughts: Unless the team was handed to you, it’s important for a PM to evaluate the members before undertaking a major project. As a PM, it’s important to lay out the expectation before the project begins as far as what the PM expects from the team. In addition to technical skills, respect and cooperation among members should be emphasized. It’s also a good idea to have a plan to deal with conflicts and differences. As a PM, it’s important that you are engaged, fair and trustworthy. This will ensure their trust in you.

I felt that the author has identified some key problems PMs face. I agree with all of them in some capacity. Do you agree with us? Can you think of other problems PMs face and how they can be addressed?