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What Makes a Project Manager Seasoned?

I hear that expression from time to time when someone is looking for a strong Project Manager. It caused me to wonder exactly what is it that makes a Project Manager seasoned. On the surface, seasoned seems to convey having experience. But, there is an additional nuance to being seasoned rather than just being experienced.

From my perspective, someone who is seasoned has been through all forms of project trials and tribulation, survived to see another day, and carries this knowledge and insight from their experiences forward with them. They see the end result of something many times before it begins and are willing to share, coach and mentor those around them.

From your perspective, what do you think makes a Project Manager seasoned?
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Interesting question; a seasoned project manager should have the following:

- A depth and breadth of experience in small, medium and large projects
- Worked on program, IT, Marketing and Finance projects for the business
- Served as a contract manager for several projects
- Served in various roles of a project from beginning to end throughout their career
- Coached and mentored other project managers, sponsors, project team members
- Developed tools, templates, tip and techniques for other project managers
- Global experience on one or more projects
- Exposure to various project management methods and approaches
- Communicates well with C-Level executives and stakeholders

Other thoughts and ideas?


Jennifer, a great question; Naomi, a great list in response!

Something I would add to the list is that a seasoned project manager must have experience with change and know the role he/she plays in helping successfully execute it. Specifically:
- Communicates well with C-Level executives and stakeholders and is able to serve as a trusted advisor to them
- Understands complex group dynamics and demonstrates advanced facilitation skills
- Has experience working on and leading change and a working knowledge of how people and organizations change
- Places value on the human as well as the technical aspects of the change and understands how each is dependent on the other

Daryl Conner gets into more depth on this topic in his Change Thinking blog where he outlines the characteristics of Successful Change Practitioners ( and offers a free download on selecting change practitioners in his Jan 29 post.

The word 'Seasoned' or 'Veteran' is more of a perspective than a real and hard skill set. When I say that, it does not mean that 'inexperienced' PM can be called such. Experience in different aspects of project management, different environments, multiple projects etc can all contribute towards making a PM considered as 'Seasoned'.
In my perspective, I will consider a PM seasoned if he/she can resolve issues effectively in a shorter timeframe by drawing from her/his previous experiences thereby providing enormous value to the project team. The same should apply to planning and risk analysis processes too. Effectiveness in stakeholder communication and reporting will also measuring scale for a seasoned PM.

Robert Kegan writes, “When we experience the world as “too complex” we are not just experiencing the complexity of the world. We are experiencing a mismatch between the world’s complexity and our own at this moment.” A seasoned person does not resort to simplistic rules or best practices, but rather develops an appreciation of the situation. Many of the biggest challenges of project management are dealing with people and their emotions. Seasoning is less a factor of experience and more the ability to sense the important issues of the situation and respond appropriately.

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"Of course I'm ambitious. What's wrong with that? Otherwise you sleep all day."

- Ringo Starr