Considering a career in project management or know someone who is considering such a move? Are you ready? Are they ready? And what does it actually mean to be ready? What steps do you need to take to get to that point?
Other things to consider… Are you being thrust into the role, or do you desire it (and yes, some of us made a conscious choice to become PMs)? Do you have the experience needed? Are you a leader or a follower? Does your background match up well with the types of projects you’ll be leading? Do you have the experience with the proper project management software tools to track the schedule appropriately? Can you make good, quick decisions and then own them?
These are all relevant questions to ask yourself before stepping into the role of project manager. Why? Because it’s an interesting role and it can be a very rewarding role, but it is a difficult role when taken seriously and it puts you in the place of nearly full responsibility for the positive or negative outcome of the projects that you take on.
I personally have some thoughts on knowing you’re ready to be a project manager that I’d like to discuss – and, as always, I welcome your thoughts and your own opinions…
You make decisions and stick to them. I don’t want to say that the project manager needs to be full of themselves, but they certainly can’t be weak-kneed when it comes to taking the lead and making decisions. You won’t always have your manager there to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to key decisions in a given situation. You are sometimes going to have to make that call yourself. Of course, you need to be thoughtful enough – and smart enough – to get as much information as you can from your team or other relevant subject matter experts (SMEs), but there may be critical time constraints involved in your project management software schedule meaning you’ll have to act fast and go with what you have at the moment. Can you do that? If so, you may be ready.
You have some relevant experience under your belt. If you want to be a technical project manager and run IT projects and software development engagements, then have an IT background. The most successful technical project managers I’ve run into who are leading development projects were once developers themselves. I know it has definitely helped me on countless IT projects. Having credibility with your big-ego tech resources is important and your background will give you a good gut check on whether they’re giving you reasonable estimates and progress updates or not. Same goes with construction project managers. While I think the basic PM skill sets apply across all industries giving any experienced PM at least a chance for success, having experience in your chosen industry will greatly increase your chances for deploying successful project solutions and for successfully managing your project resources – and the project customer.
You are ready to take on the responsibility without the rewards. I’ve often found in the role of PM that success is expected – even though we all know more projects fail to some degree than succeed. The expectation from your executive management is always there that you’ll meet the timeframe in your project management software schedule and ‘win’ on your project. Therefore, recognition often goes more to the team as a whole or – in the case of highly technical projects – to some of the key skilled resources than to the project manager. And you have to be ready for that. But you also have to be ready to accept responsibility if the project fails. In fact, be ready for much more recognition if the latter occurs, as the target is always firmly set on your head. Still, leading a great team on an interesting project with a great customer and cool technology is sometimes enough reward itself…. Just know it’s not about the accolades. Do it because you want to.
Summary / call for feedback
Readers…what are your thoughts on this topic? If you’re a new project manager just starting out or you’re looking to become one, what other questions or concerns might you have? If you’re an experienced project manager, what high-level items would you add to this list? Let’s generate some useful discussions…thanks!