In an effort to stay relevant and useful to my clients, I often ask myself “what value am I adding to the projects I manage?” There are many different ways a project manager can be engaged on a project and these include:
- High level or strategic project managers who focus on aligning projects with business objectives and strategy.
- Process oriented project managers who facilitate or manage the project management processes that drive an organization’s projects. These processes include managing things like Risk, Change, Issues, Communications, the project schedule and the Project Management Office.
- Technical or “hands on” project managers who work with the project team to develop new designs and solutions.
- Senior Project Managers who ensure all the above get done on a large project.
While these rolls define “what” a project manager does to a certain extent, they don’t readily or easily illustrate “how” a project manager should go about accomplishing the task at hand. Currently, I have an awesome team of softare developers creating a new application for my client. They are obviously very technical, and not being a computer programmer myself, I sometimes think that they could get the job without me.
Invariably though, something happens which reminds me what good project managers do, and why they are a vital part of the success of any project. A good project manager asks questions. Lots of them. In today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal (A Question of Management), Carol Bartz (Yahoo’s new CEO) said the following:
We have very, very smart people. And frankly—and all of you guys out there that have a little age on you will appreciate this—all you have to do is ask questions. You just have to keep asking questions. You ask questions and guess what, they go, Oh, I never thought of that. Because it unleashes so much power in people by just asking. Why do I have to be the know-it-all? My God, I’m not that smart. But I’m smart enough to just keep asking questions and say, Is that the best you can do? Does that excite you? Will that excite the customer? Does this really have to work this way?
A good project manager asks questions. All the time. While teaching a project management class for the California Highway Patrol, I asked the question “How do you know something is true?” One of the students said that we should “Trust and Verify.” What ensued was a lively discussion that revolved around the question of the need to verify something, if the source was someone you trusted. After all, if you really trusted someone, why would you need to verify what they said? While an interesting discussion, the bottom line is that the project manager is responsible for asking enough questions, so that the project team is focused on the right things, with the right information, to arrive at the right solution.
Good project managers ask questions.
Lead With Honor,