Project Managers are people (yes people) who make sure stuff gets done. As described by, a Project Manager’s (PM’s) characteristics can be rounded out to several categories. They can be described in terms of: guidance, adaptability, detail orientation, delegation, vision, creativity, and resourcefulness. A successful PM will possess – to some degree – each of these traits. Tying into that, vision and guidance play hand-in-hand by giving teams the tools they need to see the big picture of projects. Without guidance, there is going to be issues. Creativity, adaptability, and resourcefulness all coincide with one another. Problems are going to arise, it is inevitable; it is the duty of the Project Manager to adapt in creative ways and utilize any and all resources.

Last month, the Account Coordinator team embarked on a journey to Rapid City for a Project Management seminar. At this event, we learned a bit more about what it truly means to manage projects from a strategic and realistic perspective. The teacher, Dr. Rachel Headley, directed lessons for the day at Rapid City’s University Center. Her years of experience managing large projects contributed heavily to her knowhow; those very skills are helping her greatly in her newest endeavor of renovating a 100 year old home! Over the course of our eight-hour day in Rapid City, we gained an incredible amount of insight into the world of Project Management from individuals in all types of industries.

Outlined below are a few things we took back home with us.

  • Emphasis on the big picture and the small details. This is one of the most important traits of a highly effective Project Manager. Avoid getting lost in the macro (big picture) and micro (small details) aspects of your project and focus on harmonizing the two. The big picture view is primarily focusing on how the project hooks into other work as a dependent or perhaps a leader in efforts for a larger program. For example, a big picture goal for a non-profit center could be acquiring their 501C3, which will lead to the ability to file for grant and other fundraising tools, and ultimately fuel the organization. While micro managers mainly focus on the now – the small details in a project and breaking down the big goals.
  • Think strategically. This concept will allow the Project Manager to direct his or her team to success. Strategic thinking will open doors to creative solutions of daily issues and potentially larger issue that may arise. Going hand-in-hand with this concept is the idea to challenge assumptions. A classic missed opportunity to avoid project calamity is taking in assumptions at face value. Projects are often about doing something that has not been done before. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.
  • Plan ahead. For any project, there is bound to be something that goes wrong. Best practice is to know that what can go wrong will go wrong. You need to know what you’re dealing with, the timeline, and how much manpower is behind your goal. Having the ability to set and manage your expectations with your resources at hand will give you the upper hand when planning ahead. Effective Project Managers first set a realistic expectation at the outset of a project. Over time, those expectations can grow and change proactively with the project itself. It is the duty of the Project Manager to manage those expectations accordingly.

Adopting these tactics will put you directly on track to achieving your project goals. You don’t need “Project Manager” in your title in order to successfully lead a project. Using these tactics will help you to be an effective leader and help you deliver real results.