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What Makes A Good Project Manager? A Good Gut.

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By Sanjay Khatnani, Managing Partner, J2 Solutions

Today’s businesses can’t afford to waste money or fall behind schedule. That’s why they hire a project manager—to ensure the shared objectives of a project are met, on budget and on time.

But what qualities make up a successful project manager? Sure, they need to have the right knowledge, skills, and tools to drive a project in a forward-moving direction. That much is expected. It’s assumed. But what about intuition? I’d be willing to bet you never thought of that particular attribute as a must-have in a project manager. In my lifelong experience in the world of project management, I can tell you first hand, it is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Because a project team involves people who don’t usually work together—oftentimes spanning across multiple geographical regions—the project manager is the one who acts as a human shield between multiple teams, driving a cohesive project. This person is the one who tows the line—who must jump in when any one piece of the project is falling behind. A project manager with gut instinct—instinct based on experience and intuitive knowledge of all the moving parts—is able to recognize certain trends and act accordingly, long before a minor variance has a chance to develop into a major problem. With one agenda and one goal in mind, the intuitive project manager always has his or her antenna up and stays one step ahead—righting the ship before it veers off course.

To illustrate my point, I’ll use a client case study as an example. Working with a third party vendor, this client had just completed Phase I of a CRM Optimization program. They had brought J2 in to implement Phase II, which included the upgrade of the CRM system and enhancements to the sales management module.

After delving into the system and discovering the program had low adoption as well as missing data, it didn’t take long for our project manager to raise a red flag. Rather than proceed with Phase II, as was his initial charge, he took a step back; at this point, he knew Phase II would present an even bigger problem if the missteps from Phase I weren’t addressed. After gathering more information and talking to the end users, he uncovered two key issues: the system did not cater to the clients’ needs and end users were not trained.

With this, he developed a new approach to Phase II, which included software changes to support the user environment, training materials for end users, an end-user feedback committee, and live data testing, among other key initiatives. The end result: the customer saw their usage jump from 15% to 80% in only two months, and realized $1M in savings within the first year alone.

What made this project successful was the project manager’s ability to identify roadblocks before they became roadblocks. He knew intuitively from the get-go that something was amiss, and he didn’t stop until he figured out what it was; he was agile enough to find a solution that would drive notable results.

What makes a good project manager? A good gut.

What’s an example of a time when your gut feeling helped you during a project? Tell me about it in the comments!