Throughout my career, I have seen both great and not-so-great project managers. I have worked with clients who had billions of dollars at stake and could face severe liquidated damages if their products and services were not delivered on time, on schedule and within budget. If a company has a weak project manager, the company’s success could hang in the balance –no one knows who is responsible for what; no one knows whether progress is being made; no one can see the big or the small picture. Eventually, the ERP implementation comes to an end but it may not be pretty and the carnage can be severe.
Following is a list of five qualities that must be fulfilled for a project manager to be successful (in no particular order):
1. Organized. Being organized increases efficiency. People lose time when they are hunting for lost emails or switching between devices to find what they need. When files are lost, work quality suffers because factual information, work notes or reminders may be missing. Additionally, being organized helps make and reinforce good impressions. Every workplace has at least one desk that is heaped with files or covered in tchotchkes, which at minimum, inhibits actual workspace and gives the impression that they either don’t care or don’t respect workplace etiquette. If keeping a desk tidy is difficult, then how are they going to handle more complex tasks?
2. Punctual. Punctuality sets the tone for organizational conduct. If a project manager is late to meetings or misses deadlines, this sets the tone for all employees. The best project managers I’ve ever worked under were always early; they kept me on my toes and set and reinforced the standard to which I was expected to adhere. “I didn’t have time,” was an unacceptable answer unless there was an extenuating circumstance and any work extensions had to be approved before the assignment was due.
3. Transparent. When project managers are upfront with employees about the status of the ERP implementation, it helps build trust between management and employees. Additionally, making information available to all employees empowers them to make better decisions and produces a product of higher quality. Closely related to transparency is the receptivity of thoughts and opinions from employees. The best project managers listen to the people who are in the weeds, performing the details of a much bigger picture.
4. Experienced. Given the choice between a fledgling project manager with deep industry knowledge or an experienced project manager with shallow industry knowledge, I would choose the former. A project manager must have experience in order to ask detailed questions about business processes and methodologies. They also need to know how all of the pieces fit together and how to solve the problem when a piece is not fitting or is missing altogether. Project managers with no industry experience may have a high-level understanding of how things operate but almost everyone in the company should possess that knowledge anyway. When a project manager understands the inner workings of an industry, fewer blind spots exist.
5. Communicative. When people do not know what is expected of them, what tasks they have or how to complete them, the project manager is not doing his or her job. For a successful ERP implementation, every employee needs to understand his or her role and should be held accountable. When I was a consultant, my favorite project manager operated like clockwork. Every morning at 9 a.m. we had a status meeting where the project manager created a rolling list of tasks with due dates and assigned the most qualified person to the task. One-by-one he would run down the task list and each person was required to state the percentage of the assigned task that was completed. If we needed help completing a task, this was our time to say so. By holding each one of us accountable, we all made sure that our tasks came in on time because no one wanted to be “that guy” who didn’t get his or her tasks done. By communicating our status, we knew what everyone else was doing, who the weak links were and how we were progressing towards the goal.