Selecting Project Managers

by Brian Krichbaum on 16/03/2012

The project manager needs to be one of the best managers in the company and picked at the onset of the project. After all, they have a difficult job. They must manage diverse teams with members who all have “real” bosses elsewhere in the company. When picking someone to be a project manager, keep these requirements in mind;

  • Project managers need detailed cross functional knowledge. The development, production, procurement and quality systems at your firm are complicated. It isn’t necessary for project leaders to have worked in all these functional areas, but the more the better. Understanding the workings of these areas is critical to prevent the leader from being bamboozled by the functional experts. Detailed, first hand knowledge of the product, design and engineering systems, quality standards, manufacturing technologies and the politics of your company is mandatory.
  • Technical projects should be led by technical people. Don’t expect a leader of product development team to be successful if they can’t speak the language of the technical team. A procurement specialist or a logistics expert is unlikely to be able to fully understand the subtleties of the design and specification process; and they will have difficulty separating the critical requirements from the fluff. Engineers have disdain for those who are not technically sophisticated and can unintentionally intimidate others with the knowledge of technology; project managers must be able to ask tough questions to be successful. Not all projects are technical in nature. Redesigning a service offering or revamping marketing plan projects should be led by those who are experts in these fields.
  • Project managers must have superior organizational skills. The great engineer who can never find the spec book or retrieve the latest test results probably isn’t a good candidate. The management of project is an exceptionally detailed endeavor – pick someone who loves the detail.
  • Make sure that your project managers are great problems solvers. A project is nothing if not an exercise in solving problem after problem; make sure your leader knows how to deal with these issues.

You will have to develop your own project leaders. Given the range of skills and experience required, you probably aren’t going to find the “right” person for the job. Pick someone with most of the skills; start by giving them the experiences needed and groom them until they are ready.

The right project manager will use the systems you have developed seamlessly, and it will sometimes look easy. The wrong project manager will take the greatest system and make it a toilsome nightmare, spending weeks preparing for routine reviews, and delivering substandard results.

About the Author

Brian Krichbaum is the President of Process Coaching Incorporated, a consulting company committed to helping organizations improve their operational, program management and engineering performance, using detailed organizational assessments, lean techniques, targeted short burst projects and systems coaching to build accountability & self sufficiency into client systems.


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