Project Manager Skills


Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Project Manager Skills – Status Reports

Let’s look at a typical day in the life of a Superstar Project Manager and the specific project manager skills and techniques they use. The Superstar Project Manager arrives at work a few moments after dawn (being a superstar is not easy). He has already gone over the weekly status data from the project team. He’s looking at the estimates-to-complete and comparing how that total plus the actual hours worked compare to the task baseline. There are four tasks whose estimates-to-complete will take them beyond the baseline estimates. There is a  status meeting today but the Superstar Project Manager is not going to take the entire team’s time to discuss these problems. Instead, the Superstar contacts the four team members and discusses the problem causing the potential overruns. The Superstar and three of the team members design corrective action that will bring the tasks back in line with the original estimates. But it’s obvious that the initial estimate for the fourth task was flat wrong and overly optimistic. It will be 5 days late. The Superstar makes a note for the lessons learned documentation. It includes the task’s actual data and the reason why the estimate was too low. Project Management Skills Main Page

Next, the Superstar looks at the project schedule. The odds of correcting the fourth task’s 5 day  variance this week are very low. So the Superstar looks for a “downstream” solution. That is a task scheduled several weeks from now where there’s an opportunity to add resources and recover those 5 days of slippage. Then the Superstar drafts a concise change request.  He takes responsibility for the inaccurate estimate and provides the sponsor with an outline of the corrective action. The Superstar also explains that the project’s forecasted finish date will be three weeks late until they can recover the time on the downstream task.  The Superstar emails the change request to the project sponsor.

Looking at his personal calendar, the Superstar sees that he is scheduled to “take the temperature” of four stakeholders today. He needs to ensure that they don’t have additional requirements and that there are no problems coming to a boil.

Project Manager Skills – Stakeholders and Change Orders

The Superstar Project Manager wanders into the cafeteria, gets a cup of coffee and stops at four different tables to gather news from people “in the know” about high-level dealings in the organization. Unfortunately there is problem that is bubbling to the surface. A senior director who is providing three members of the project team is facing an audit by an external agency based on a whistleblowers complaint. The Superstar pulls up the project schedule on his smart phone and takes a look at the tasks being worked on by the three members provided by that senior director. He is anticipating that these team members will be pulled off for critical duties to deal with the problem. Two of the team members have no critical path assignments and both have in excess of 10 days of slack on their tasks. The Superstar Project Manager figures that allows sufficient time for them to help their department respond to the audit. Unfortunately, the third team member is working on a critical path task. That individual is a subject matter expert who will be difficult to replace. The Superstar drafts an email to the senior director. He explains that he can work around the loss of two of the director’s loaned team members. But the subject matter expert’s task is critical and losing her would affect the project completion date. The Superstar manager suggests that the workload of the subject matter expert can be reduced to 25% of the original plan if they put a new MBA the company hired on that task. They can work under the direction of the subject matter expert and reduce the expert’s time requirement. The Superstar Project Manager asks the senior director for their approval.

Project Manager Skills – Work “Out in Front”

You’ll note that everything the Superstar Project Manager has done so far involves managing in front of his project team. That is, the Superstar is not consumed with last week’s problems. Instead he is focusing on avoiding problems in the next month or two. This managing “out in front” is a key trait of Superstar Project Managers. Problems rarely catch them by surprise.  They are always one or several steps The other trait we see in Superstar Project Managers is that they take the risk of trusting their team members. Superstar project managers do not micromanage Instead, they encourage independent decision-making by their team members (to the extent the team member’s experience warrants it). This allows a Superstar to give the team members a great deal of responsibility and independence. People want to work on the Superstar Project Manager’s projects because of the trust and independence they receive. That always motivates good performers to do their best work. And the Superstar continues to be a successful project manager.

You learn all of these skills in our project management basics courses. Begin whenever you wish and work individually with your instructor at your pace and schedule.Take a look at the basics course in your specialty.

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Project Communications




Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on