By Christian Bisson
The number of years a project manager has been working certainly gives you a clue about his or her ability. But this isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the only information you can use to spot a project manager who is a cut above the rest.
Below are a few tips to help you assess if someone really knows their stuff. Just as you’d adapt your expectations of junior project managers to their experience, use these tips to get a sense of how “experienced” or “senior” someone really is. I’ve recently put them to good use when a project manager was temporarily hired to take my place while I was out on paternity leave.
The first sign is simple. A project manager who aims to do the job correctly will proactively ask questions when planning a project, instead of delivering an asset that is incorrect. Or, the project manager will deliver the assets but will clearly state he or she was missing some information and did what he or she could as best as possible.
If you receive an asset that is supposed to be ready and yet you need to revise multiple times, you’re probably working with an inexperienced project manager.
Being organized is a typical quality used to describe a project manager, and it’s something that should also develop throughout the years. Assuming the project manager’s workload is reasonable, here are a few clues to help spot if the person really is organized:
- If he or she is managing multiple projects, are projects being prioritized properly?
- Are emails sent to the project manager acted on in a timely manner, or do you have to follow up on most of them?
- If simple, straightforward information is discussed, has it been noted or used properly, or has it been forgotten (for instance, a delivery date discussed that should be added to a schedule)?
Change is part of project management, whether because of client requests or other issues that arise. An experienced project manager is able to adapt accordingly and drive the project forward. Ask yourself these questions about your project manager:
- Is the team properly made aware of the changes?
- Does the project manager remain calm at the prospect of change?
- Are issues met with a solution-oriented approach?
This is the only tip that could help assess a project manager’s experience prior to working with him or her. Although it’s a vague indication, spotting the extremes can help.
- If project mangers worked at only one place all their career, it might indicate that they are used to the routine of that place and are inexperienced in anything else.
- On the other hand, project managers who seem to change jobs every few months might not be well-suited for this line of work.
- Also note that where someone worked means little; what really matters is what he or she did.
Have additional tips for judging a project manager’s abilities? Please don’t hesitate to share.