Why project managers are hung-up on the 3 wrong metrics?

Christian Pistauer, Workplace & Change Director at Athena Blue Global, shares his insights and discusses why project managers are hung-up on the 3 wrong metrics.

Ask any recent graduate what the most important factors a project manager needs to focus on are and they’ll almost certainly recite the holy trinity of time, cost and quality. But after delivering projects for multinationals throughout Asia, across the ANZ region and in the UK, my experience tells me that a really great project manager has a different trio of golden rules.

Completing a project on time, within budget and to a standard that meets (or hopefully exceeds) a client’s expectations is important. A major part of the project manager’s role is to manage risks associated with these often-conflicting factors to meet project objectives. But these are the baseline targets to aim for.

Clients these days expect more and the most successful project managers know how to deliver it. So when early career project managers ask for my three golden rules here’s what I tell them:

  1. Communication
  2. Communication and…
  3. (You guessed it) Communication

I’ll elaborate.

Firstly, communication with the client. They’ve likely got a lot of capital invested in the project and they want to be kept updated at every stage, without having to chase up the project manager. Even if delays or problems occur, a client will feel a lot better about it if the facts are communicated in a clear and timely fashion.

Clients also appreciate hearing honest, objective and expert opinions about the project. Too often these days we hear of an ‘all care and no responsibility’ approach to project management, but I actually think clients prefer it when a project manager is willing to suggest a course of action based on their own experience, and sometimes even to query the direction the client want to take if they feel it might not be right.

Secondly, communication with the teams. A great project manager is like a great sports coach. They need to be able to get the very best from each and every team member – to lead, steer and guide them through the project. Making sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them, by when, and showing appreciation when it’s done can be the difference between a project being delivered on time to the required quality or not. We should really be calling our project managers ‘project leaders’ as good leadership is an essential part of the role.

Finally, communication with yourself. When a project is in full swing it’s easy to get caught up and start running on adrenaline. Unfortunately this can lead to bad decisions. I’ve found that stepping back and reflecting from time to time during a project – asking myself what has worked well and what could be going better – has enabled me to gain some perspective and foresee potential pitfalls within projects.

So in summary: yes, the traditional metrics of time, cost and quality are essential, but the best project managers make sure great communication is at the heart of everything they do.


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