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Top 5 habits of highly effective project managers

Sylvia Pennington knows what makes an outstanding project manager. She understands that there is more than just charts, meeting deadlines, and keeping team members focused on their tasks. In fact, there are at least five habits that set the successful PM apart from the rest.

  • It’s about the destination
  • Talk the talk
  • Awareness of direction
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Know when you are not getting good information

The first point she brings up in this article is that project managers need to focus on business outcomes — not just how visible their Gantt chart looks during a project review presentation. The first point she brings up in this article is that project managers need to focus on business outcomes — not just how visible their Gantt chart looks during a project review presentation.Another suggestion further along the list is to mind the details: they’re the thing that will sink your project without careful consideration:

“You need attention to detail,” says Alan Hansell, an adviser on IT management issues at research house IBRS. “PMs don’t have to do the small tasks themselves, but they do need to make sure they get done. It’s good to be big picture but you also need to be very granular when it comes to large projects. Problems arise when small things are overlooked.” Knowing just how much governance to apply to project tasks can be an art in itself, adds Goldstone. Asking staff to write a 60-page scope document for a $100,000 piece of work can be overkill, he says, while the, ‘it’s only $100K — I’ll just leave it to you’ style of management may be the fast track to cost overruns.

Great project managers also consider how to respond to bad situations before they happen. The “good pilot” is someone who is able to experience and unforeseen situation and respond to it both in a way that their team expects and in a way that helps mitigate the situation. Pennington’s last tip is to have a good ear for when someone is telling you everything is OK. Sometimes it’s the truth, and sometimes the person just doesn’t want to tell you the project is in trouble. Project managers need to have a system in place that helps determine true project status from reported project status.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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