Having the right manager for a project is vitally important but how do you choose?
Project Management is very much about maintaining focus on multiple, simultaneous tasks whilst understanding the implications one task has on another. There are plenty of methodologies in the market place with many accompanying tools to assist projects managers, Prince II being the most popular among them. Project managers will have at their disposal tools such as the project plan, a resource plan, contingency plans, milestones, risk registers and budget trackers. In a time-critical situation, however, there is no substitute for someone with a natural ability to model projects mentally.
At the same time, the nature of the organisation is just as important as the nature of the individual. Organisations that are highly methodical require a very different style of project manager to fast-moving, dynamic organisations.
The methodical organisation, e.g. a large multinational service provider, needs to demonstrate they are highly competent with a high level of visibility and control over their projects. This requires regular demonstrations that the appropriate tools are being used and updated. The ideal project manager in this environment is a highly-skilled administrator, who is accustomed to the applicable methodology and, often in the UK, has the appropriate certification. They have great attention to detail and will keep everyone contributing to the project in line with the plan. However, they will rarely be asked to make decisions. Nor should they be or their effectiveness to monitor and control the project could be compromised. In this environment, key decisions should always be made by stakeholders.
At the other end of the scale is the fast-moving, dynamic organisation. This could be a SME with 50-300 employees, where rapid implementation of a project is of primary importance. In such organisations the project is usually internal with no outside service providers other than perhaps the project manager, who could be an interim.
This environment usually requires a looser methodology as there is neither the resource nor the time to methodically populate and update multiple tools. The project manager in this environment will often become a doer, personally taking on many tasks and making decisions. This will free key individuals within the organisation to get on with their everyday jobs or perform project tasks only they have the skills for. The ideal project manager under these circumstances will have an appreciation for good project methodology whilst taking on more risk. They must trust their ability to manage tasks in a similar way to operations managers.