Project Management

Successful Strategies for Working With Contract Project Managers

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

You have decided to use the services of a contract project manager (CPM) to lead one or more of your organization’s projects. That could be one of your best or worst decisions—and that greatly depends on how well you vet them, and also how you choose to work with them.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume the PM selected has the requisite project management skills and experience you need. That leaves the relationship management component of the equation. Most CPMs are fast learners, adaptable and compliant as they have learned these skills from working in multiple industries and on multiple types of projects over the years.

However, they like to have the rules of engagement spelled out up front. Spoon-feeding contract PMs policies, governance, record keeping rules and the like only serves to frustrate and upset them. Sometimes, it even leads to them jumping ship, which can be quite disruptive.

To avoid this first mistake, be sure to provide an onboarding process that provides the contract PM what they need to fully understand:

  • the project(s) they will be managing, including history of what has come before
  • who the project team members and stakeholders are
  • obstacles and issues they may be inheriting or facing
  • tools, environments and processes they will be expected to use
  • time reporting, approval and compensation process

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