As I indicated in my first blog on this topic I believe a lot of firms are looking for people with core competencies related to their specific industry. Let me tell you a little story.
Back when I worked for Motorola we designed highly sophisticated real-time software to operate cellular infrastructure equipment. There was a group of software developers out of Cork, Ireland that worked closely with our team in Arlington Heights, IL. As we were building our project management structure for the organization the Cork office recruited a person that turned out to be one of the best project managers we ever had. Did this person have any experience in developing cellular software? Not by a long shot. The person had no background in software development or anything close to computer technology. This person came from the construction industry. So what made this person successful? I believe there were three key skills that this person had to make them successful.
The first was an ability to put the pieces of the puzzle together. For those of you out there that are project managers, these are called work packages. This person could effectively put these pieces together in a network diagram and develop a timeline for the work. This then became the basis for this person to organize and drive the project.
The second key skill that this person had was to ask the right questions. None of these questions had anything to do with how the work was to get done. It is not the project manager’s job to know how the work is to get done. The correct questions where what needs to get done, who is accountable, how do these things relate to one another and how long will they take. It was the answers to these questions that led to the development of the network diagram and project timeline.
The third skill this person had was an ability to work effectively with other people. Yes, we are back to those interpersonal skills again. I believe all top notch project managers know how to work effectively with others. (More on this topic next week.)
So when you are interviewing your project managers don’t ask them if they can build a server, start up an AS400 or re-initiate a mainframe. Instead you should be asking them to describe how they develop a network diagram, collect data for their work packages and work with others to create a cooperative working environment. It is those skills that will make your project mangers successful.
I probably have two or three more posts on this topic and then will provide a concise summary that you can use when screening your project managers. More next week…