How to become a good project manager
As a project manager, you need a broad outlook, a sense of the significant details, a good understanding of the client’s needs and the ability to motivate your project members on both a professional and collegial level. The requirements for the role are comprehensive, as customer satisfaction, quality, time and economy must form a synthesis without compromising empathy for the individual. But if you demonstrate the abilities, there are no limits to what you can venture into. Here, you’ll get five good recommendations for how you can work towards becoming a project manager.
By Ib Enevoldsen, Managing Director, Ramboll Denmark
Establish your professional foundation first
It takes an eye for detail to get a sense of the whole. To manage the big projects, it’s not enough to be well organised and structured. Your technical and practical foundation must also be in order. So allow yourself time to gain thorough professional experience in the early years of your career – first within your own field of expertise and later in other fields as well. In doing this, you will begin to understand the synergies and mutual needs.
When you work as a project manager, you need the skill to understand and appreciate the expertise of others, even if you cannot do what they do yourself. This enables you to identify all the challenges for the task in question, provide a good overview, and make the different specialists work together to find the best solution for the client.
Have a talk with ‘the others’
If you aspire to replace your specialist spectacles with a project manager’s cap, it’s a good idea to take an interest in the interface with other professions working on the same projects as you are. It’s not enough to know it’s there. Grasping both the technical aspects and the human drivers are at least as important. Look at the other professions and try to understand what they have at stake. What motivates them, and what forms the basis for how they work and think? Your interest in who we work for and who we are working with should match your interest in the work we do. In this way, you will begin to train yourself to think in integrated wholes.
Engage your team and throw light on professional disagreements
Projects are typically about development and change, so be careful not to commit yourself to ‘the right solution’ too quickly and be receptive to the views of other professional groups. Throw light on any professional disagreements so that all potential advantages and disadvantages of a given solution are heard. This will provide a new and more nuanced view of possible solutions. And equally important, it will entail that all participants experience greater co-ownership of the chosen solution and therefore, a better starting point for quality in the project.
Respect your company’s project model
In order to function optimally in the role as project manager, it’s necessary to have a project model and a well-functioning toolbox, to strengthen your day-to-day project management. A project model ensures that projects are carried out according to an overriding framework, for the benefit of our clients. It should warrant effective management and make goals, scope and progress clear at the same time. Familiarise yourself thoroughly with the company’s project model and show that you understand and respect both the product, the time and the budget. The most important step you can take towards becoming a project manager is to demonstrate that you can manage your own time within the framework the company provides.
Take responsibility for your own management
For the employees working on a project, it can sometimes be unclear precisely how the overall task should be solved. As a result, people may end up with too much on their plate because they don’t know what to prioritise. At the same time, few project managers have time to delimit all tasks in every detail. Therefore, it’s important that you take responsibility for managing your own time first, in the role as a project worker. Seek influence on your tasks and make clear agreements with your project manager about responsibilities and expectations. In other words, assume responsibility for establishing the success criterion for what you need to get done. In this way, you help yourself be managed, and consequently develop your own ability to manage others.