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Different Project Managers for Different Projects

The skills of the project manager need to match the project and the people involved.

It’s an important issue since the success of a project is dependent on the competency of the project manager. Every project is different and this presents a challenge.
So how do we minimize the risk of an inappropriate project management assignment?

One approach to treating this risk is to first build an understanding of the project environment, the work involved, the people participating and, last but not least, the customers’ expectations. Then use this understanding to assess the importance of some basic competencies common to most project managers. Your understanding of the environment, work and people will point you to the specific qualities – and to any unique competencies – key to the success of the project.

There are several sources that can be used to frame the ‘basic competencies common to most project managers’. The PMBOK suggests project managers should have domain knowledge in the application area of the project, general management skills, soft skills related to people management, project environment knowledge and understanding and experience in the nine management knowledge areas.

Another view is provided by Jennifer Krahn (from recent PMI Research Conference Proceedings Effective Project Leadership: A Combination of Project Manager Skills and Competencies in Context). From her work, the ten most important skills and competencies for project managers are: people skills, leadership, listening, integrity, trustworthy, verbal communications, team building, conflict resolution, critical thinking and priority balancing.

Yet another alternative is provided by William Lei and Martin Skitmore (from Project Manager Competencies: A Survey of Perspectives from Project Managers in South East Queensland). Lei and Skitmore frame abilities along slightly different lines: meeting project deliverables, making decisions, controlling costs, leading project teams, organization, planning, conflict resolution, problem solving, motivating, meeting project quality objectives, negotiating, delegating tasks, team building and managing legal issues.

To these lists I’d add visioning skills and the ability to manage expectations and conduct effective meetings. Clearly there is no comprehensive, ‘one-size-fits-all’ list for all situations.

When selecting the desired project manager competencies, you identify the characteristics of the project environment, project work and people involved. As an example for a large project high importance might be placed on finding someone with significant relevant prior experience and good team building skills. On the other hand a project with lots of uncertainty may place more importance on critical thinking, risk management and people skills.

We know that projects fail for numerous reasons. Selecting the ‘right’ project manager means selecting the project manager with the ‘right’ competencies. This is one way to reduce the likeliness of failure due to ineffective project management.

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