When I speak to some of my readers or Associates in my firm, they like to ask me questions like “What is Project Management like?” and “Am I suited to be a Project Manager?”.
In fact, I get so many of these questions that I started developing a “Project Management Career Questionnaire“.
The purpose of which was to assess, based on responses to a series of 10 questions, whether a person is cut out to be a Project Manager.
In this article, I want to share with you this questionnaire and just take you through some of my thoughts as to what kind of people are suited to be Project Managers.
Once you’ve worked through the questionnaire, you will understand a lot more about what it takes to be a Project Manager. This will be especially important if you’re considering a job or role move into a Project Manager role.
As a start, you should download my Project Management Career Questionnaire by clicking here.
I’ve made the questionnaire deceptively simple. It contains some of the most pertinent scenarios in project management, e.g. organizational and communication skills, scope control, how to handle poor performance.
Depending on how you answer my questions, you will get a score to see how you will fare as a Project Manager.
I actually tested this questionnaire on myself and several PMs and they mention it is pretty accurate.
Are you suited to be a Project Manager?
2. Sample Question #1: Organization
If you look at my questionnaire, you will see the first question:
Your work desk is in a mess. Do you:
- A) Clear it up immediately.
- B) Record “Clean work desk” as a task in your to-do list and do it sometime later.
- C) Just ignore it.
Now, how you answer that question tells me a lot about how you react to chaos and disorder.
In my opinion, Project Managers HATE disorder. A good PM goes out of his way to clear up “messy stuff” and put this in a structure.
Some PMs also act on something immediately (i.e. clean a messy desk immediately), while others would meticulously log it into To-Do list, to be done after other more important tasks have been executed.
Case Study: I’ll give you a personal example. As a person, I’m a maniacal organizer. I HATE messy tables.
If you look at my study desk at home, I usually only have my laptop and laptop bag.
If that desk starts getting messy (e.g. with letters, bits of kids’ drawings), I either clean it out rightaway or schedule time to clean it up.
And yes, I rely on a To-Do list (check out my organization system here) to get things done.
2. Sample Question #2: Clarifying Expectations
So here’s another question in my questionnaire:
During a casual conversation with one of your project’s key stakeholders, he or she mentions the initiative you’re managing is doomed and won’t add much value to the company. Do you:
- A) Express your disagreement immediately and explain the benefits of the project to this stakeholder.
- B) Note down this stakeholder’s comments and escalate the situation to senior management.
- C) Dismiss his or her comments as “noise” and ignore them.
The best Project Managers I know will choose Option A. If a key stakeholder has a bad opinion of your project, to me that’s a Severity Level 1 or DEFCON 1 situation. You need to correct the wrong expectation or opinion rightaway.
Many Project Managers, on the other hand, will commonly choose Option B. This is the “safe way” to handle the situation. However, this is not ideal because it is YOUR responsibility as the Project Manager to first try to diffuse the wrong expectations of this stakeholder.
Only after repeated tries and he or she does not change their view, THEN you would escalate to senior management.
3. Sample Question #3: Leverage Your Team’s Skills
Here’s another question that’s pretty interesting:
You’re about to start work as a Project Manager implementing a Private Banking system for a leading global Private Bank. You have very little knowledge of the Private Banking industry – your boss picked you to lead this project because of your strong project management skills. Do you:
- A) Assemble a very strong Business Analyst Team to help you out – they can be the domain experts.
- B) Take up a course on Private Banking in your spare time to beef up your domain knowledge.
- C) Just “Go With The Flow” – there’s no need to understand Private Banking. You believe that things will work out once you’ve started the project.
As a Project Manager, we should learn to leverage on our team member’s skills. A very good Project Manager will choose to Option A and Option B.
I remember a very good Project Manager I worked with in the past. I was Lead Business Analyst for a core insurance system rollout and she was the PM.
While she was familiar with the insurance industry, she was not familiar with IT and the system side of things.
What she did was to make sure the team had a very strong IT and Architecture Team to support her.
In meetings with the vendor or IT-inclined stakeholders like the CIO, she would bring along her IT Architecture Team Lead to help advise her on options and solutions.
What I learnt there was that a Project Manager does not and should not need to know everything.
Tip: It’s certainly good to have domain knowledge, etc. but ultimately – the real power is to leverage on the combined strength of your project team to deliver results.
Project delivery is always, always a team effort.
4. Is A Project Management Career For You?
After answering the questionnaire, you should have a score which rates you into one of three categories:
- Highly suited to be a Project Manager
- Quite suited to be a Project Manager
- Not suited to be a Project Manager
In the first scenario, you’re highly suited to be a PM.
Your character traits are in line with a Project Manager’s mindset – driven, commitment to timelines and budget, and making sure things get done.
In the second scenario, you still are suited to be a PM – but the important distinction is that you may tend to manage through using a measured, methodology based approach.
You also may not like to be in the limelight, leading and organizing teams – but you exert influence in your own special way.
In the third scenario, you are not really suited for a Project Management career. The key reason would be that you don’t think like a PM – you may take things easy, “Go With The Flow” and deal with issues as they arise. Even if the project fails, you’re not too worried.
Which category do you fall into? In my questionnaire, I also delve into a detailed assessment of each category and some suggested action steps to take.
I hope my Project Management Career Questionnaire will help you clarify if Project Management is the career path for you.
Ultimately, I believe success in Project Management is part nature and part nuture.
I certainly see some “natural” PMs out there – those who are driven, confident and like to lead teams. However, many of them lack “nuture”, i.e. they may not believe in or understand formal PM methodologies as they see it as a hinderance to their style.
But there are also those who are more of a “nutured” type of PM – myself being an example. I don’t see myself as a “natural born” PM. I’m not very comfortable leading and encouraging a large team.
I prefer to exert my influence through the sidelines, communication and a somewhat strong methodology focus. And I’m equally, if not more effective than a “natural PM”.
I hope you’ll have a chance to complete my questionnaire – and find out if you’re suited to be a Project Manager.
Feel free to drop me a note – I’d love to discuss more.