Selecting Project Managers: It’s the Business Relationship, Not the Background

It is time for the business world to wake up when it comes to appointing project managers. The tendency to take our best technical people and decide they will be good project managers is a worldwide and absolutely ridiculous trend. Project management is not about the technology surrounding the product of the project. It is about organizational skills, and mostly, it is about relationship skills. In our Real-World Program Management class, we suggest the most important criterion for selecting project managers in a program environment is to choose the characteristic most aligned with the primary customer of the project. For instance, if the project customer is very detail oriented, choose the project manager who is most inclined to focus on details. If the customer focuses on communication and relationship, choose the project manager that is most inclined to touch base with the client frequently and informally.

I am not rejecting the importance of a solid technical background. Project managers from a completely different environment – such as an information technology expert managing a construction project – struggle without significant assistance because they lack the foresight to anticipate issues in their projects. Technology is not the most important characteristic however, because you can compensate for a lack of technical expertise with solid technical leads, or mentoring by other technical project personnel.

For those in project management who have read this far…what characteristics allowed you to get into project management? What characteristics will make you a better project manager?

For those of you who select project managers in your organisation – what characteristics are you using to assign project managers?