Your most time-consuming task will be managing people.
Obviously you can't do everything yourself, although sometimes you’ll
wish you could.
Language is a big barrier -- design, engineering, production and editorial all
use different words and make different assumptions about problems. The
project manager needs to understand all these and make sure the engineers
know what design is talking about (and vice versa).
I did some consulting work setting up a process
for a Web company last year. They began correctly by
brainstorming and setting a feature list, but by the time they started work,
the engineers’ and designers’ interpretations of those features were very
different. They entered the integration phase with essentially two
different products because the project manager was having problems getting
the two sides to collaborate.
Meet regularly with your team one-on-one. This can be quick and informal,
to see how they're doing and whether they have problems or questions. Many people find it easier to share their problems one-on-one rather than in a large meeting. Don't make it easy for people to complain. Try
to solve problems quickly and nip conflicts in the bud. If it's a something
that will affect your project, deal with it immediately regardless of
feelings or politics.
It helps to be involved in day-to-day work on a project and not just
overall issues. If you understand what your employees are doing, you can
better manage them. If they see you working alongside them, they'll have
more respect for you and will trust that you understand the challenges they
Defend your employees if they are put in a difficult situation. Do you
have the guts to stand up for your employees, defend them when they need it
and inform them when they aren't living up to expectations? You picked your
team for a reason -- stand by them and make sure they have the tools and
information to get the job done.
Do you have the authority you need?
Before taking on the job make sure you're given the authority you need. It
is essential that your role be clearly defined and
explained to your employees and to other departments at your company.
At the e-commerce site where I worked briefly, I wasn't given sufficient
authority by my boss. I was hired to create and run a production department
but was never presented to other departments in the company as the head of
anything. It made dealing with them impossible. I disliked the job so much
that I soon gave up and quit. I felt guilty about leaving my new employees,
but figured whoever replaced me might have a better
chance of getting something done.
Project managers are easy targets for criticism because the success
or failure of a project is often dependent on their decisions. I know it's
impossible not to have at least a slight ego -- especially if you like being
in charge. But don't let the endless commentary get to you. You've signed
on for a reason -- you like to lead others, and
part of leadership is the ability to deal well with stress and criticism.
Now that I've covered what it takes to be a project manager, I'll go
through a general process to get you started managing effectively.