A successful-looking project manager sitting at his desk talking on the phone.Every single project you work on in your career is probably going to be unique in one way or another. This makes the project manager role sound quite daunting but there are some common characteristics which you can look out for along the way.

Well Planned

If you want to have a chance of making a success of the piece of work then you need to get the basics right and in projects that means planning well. This might not be your favorite aspect of the job but it is one which is essential. At this point I have to confess that I am not a particularly keen planner either. The way I try and get round this is by telling myself that if I do it right then I only need to do it once. Obviously you need to keep your eye on the project plan as the work progresses but if you get it done well at the start then it will be a lot easier for you further down the line.

A Strong Team

Even the best project manager in the world isn’t likely to be able to deliver completed projects on time without the support of a strong team. Part of your role is to make sure that everyone in the team understands the project, has the skills and resources to contribute and feels happy and motivated. If you can see that something is lacking in the team then it is your job to sort it out. This isn’t always easy to do but you will benefit from doing so almost as much as the team member you help out. One thing you should be wary of is the danger of taking all the credit yourself. If the rest of the project team played a big part in the success then you should make sure that you point this out to your bosses and stakeholders.

Clear Communication

One of the features of a well run project is that it involves clear communication all the way through it. Obviously this doesn’t just depend on the project manager but when you work in this role it is something which you will want to focus on. Lots of people will want to know what is happening and you are probably going to be the only one who can see the full project from everyone’s point of view. This means that you will be under pressure to ensure that you keep everyone up to date at all times. The smartest way of dealing with this is to put your communication strategy in place at the start and stick to it. You obviously need to avoid missing meetings or not sending out updates, so a backup plan for the times when you aren’t going to be able to do this is needed.

Good Change Control

Projects change as they go on, and the things you end up delivering could be very different from what you started out looking at. This means that a robust change control process is vital. If you have this in place you can be sure that you won’t be faced with scope creep or suddenly realize that you don’t know which version of the documents have been agreed with the stakeholders. As with so many things in the project environment, the key is in setting down the process at the start and then sticking to it from then on.

A Clear Vision

With so many distractions along the way it is easy to lose track of what you are trying to do in the first place. This is why it is important that you keep a clear vision in your hard about what you want to achieve. The best way to make sure that you do this is to be clear in your initial project documentation about the goals. If you do this then you will always have this to look back on if things get too confusing.

Risk Control

There are many different types of risk which could affect your projects and you will want to have an effective way of managing them. Again, you need to identify them at the start and then get your stakeholders to sign off the document containing them. After this you have to track them and add in any emerging ones or others which change status. Project risks have a habit of getting out of hand if you let them, so it is an area you definitely need to keep a close eye on all the time.