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PM Essence

What it takes to become a Seasoned Project Manager

By - Marty Case, PMP

“Since my focus was always to make improvements and add value I never worried about making sure my boss knew everything I was doing, I counted on word of mouth bubbling up to my leadership.”.

Ok, You are the project manager, now where do you start? There are so many tools and techniques to choose from. The answer, regardless of the project, is that you start with understanding the passion of the people involved and what they feel are the important aspects of the project you are charged with, which affect their day to day activities.
Without a total understanding of the work flow and full support of all the people involved , a project manager has a continuous uphill battle to meet the project deliverables for a quality, on time and within the budget.

I have been learning the skills of project management my whole life. Starting with school to college I have always tried to focus on what the teacher really wanted. I learned, it was not about the quantity of work or the hours of study, it was about my ability to show an understanding the material. Consequently some subjects took more work and hours of study to understand. Take Calculus for example, I must have solved a thousand problems or more in the 4 years of study and in the end I became proficient at analytical thinking – the actual result, which is quite different from the ability to solve an integral or derivative on the spot. To develop expertise to solve a real world problem should be the goal, but to develop that it was imperative to do the exercises. It is the same with Project Management. To be a successful project manager you need to actually do the work or have intimate knowledge of how the work is done. This gets you the respect you need to lead the project through completion.

In the beginning of my work career I was managing my daily tasks to meet deliverables set forth by my supervisor. I have worked as a gas station attendant, Janitor, Fast Food Associate, Grocery Store Packer, Test Engineer and Electronics Instructor before joining a large automobile company based in US. In all of these roles I continued to improve my project management skills by understanding people in the work place. Within a large corporation such as mine, I learned early on that if I did not fully understand what my supervisor wanted or how my work affected other people, customers, fellow employees, leaders, and others, I would most likely not meet my supervisor’s expectations. To gain that understanding I made friends. Not necessarily close personal friends, but friends that you can count on when you need help. How do you make friends at work?

That is easy, take an interest in the problems they see around the work place and help them solve those issues. I made sure whatever work I was doing, and any resultant derivative therefrom, was actually making other peoples work easier and less distracting. Eventually I created a large network of people with a vast set of skills in many different areas. Since my focus was always to make improvements and add value I never worried about making sure my boss knew everything I was doing, I counted on word of mouth bubbling up to my leadership.

I have been very successful in my career, I have solved many problems over the years using project management techniques; understanding the scope of the issues, establishing the plan of action, implementing according to the plan, monitoring and terminating when appropriate. I also teach project management at a local university which helps me stay on track with the basics. As we all know the documentation and reporting of current status is the most arduous task of project management, but the most critical work for the project manager is the total understanding of the work elements involved and the passion of the people involved in the project, as well as those impacted by the results. Never lose sight of where you add value as a project manager; maintain focus, eliminate unnecessary work/distractions and help everyone on the project team. Keeping leadership updated on the project status is critical as well, but not at the cost of increasing work on the team - these are the people getting the job done as outlined in the plan, within budget and on time!