Reflecting this week upon the recent changes to daily life,  my thoughts turned to how life in general is perpetually changing. During my father’s illness, my whole family had new restrictions upon us, and after his passing in April 2017 my family had to learn a “new normal” without him. I was considering what it would have been like for him to be alive during this time, and the notion of him having to live through no live sports might have been considered a near-death experience for him. He loved watching sports including football, baseball, basketball, golf, and hockey.  He knew the statistics, the players, the coaches, the managers, and the history of most teams, especially his favorites.  I remember well his discussion of quarterbacks. He would note how the quarterback was not merely the most important position in football, but also how their performance determined how the others on the team would perform in turn. Later, in watching quarterbacks during interviews, it was obvious they took ownership for the performance on game day and never commented when a reporter tried to entice them to disparage another player.

In construction, a Project Manager is analogous to the quarterback.  Irrespective of the company size, team size, contract type, project type or any other factor – we see over and over again that the performance of the project manager sets the tone for the performance of the project.

What traits describe a top Project Manager in construction?

They don’t procrastinate.  When it comes to deliverables and schedules, they deliver on a routine basis with few exceptions.

They are realists rather than excessive optimists, and have no problem addressing potential obstacles. They look at the project properly from all perspectives and without disparaging or sugar-coating. They understand that the project management job primarily consists of navigating through challenges rather than sailing through chartered waters.

Properly functioning project managers recognize they do not know everything and cannot do everything.  The best project managers know when to run with the ball themselves, when to throw to others, and when to gather as a team to set the play. They may have a few years’ or many years’ experience, but they nevertheless recognize construction as a team sport and regard each project as if it were like playing a new game.  Some of the players may be the same, and the rules of the game are unchanging, but each project is a different scenario.

They communicate effectively, efficiently, and respond to communication from others in a timely, respectful, and direct manner. Their communication is in alignment with the goal of moving the ball down the field toward the touchdown.  It rarely, if ever, causing a penalty on the play.

Presently, most project managers are working remotely. If they possess the aforementioned traits, then the projects have not suffered due to this.

We often hear project managers in interviews excuse shortcomings in their work by saying they had an entry level project engineer, weak superintendent, no help from the Executive assigned to their project, or some other difficulty.  In response, we ask questions and listen intently to why they feel that way.   We often find within the project manager a lack of organizational, planning, and communication skills that prevented the project engineer from becoming more experienced, shoring the superintendent up to meet expectations, or keeping the executive informed of resources needed to get through the ebbs and flow of the projects.

My dad’s favorite quarterback, Tom Brady, recently switched teams. Just as quarterbacks often switch teams, project managers often change companies, only to find out they have the same challenges on the new team because they didn’t change the way they play the game.

The playbook for project management starts with keeping one thing in mind: The project manager is the quarterback. If the project manager remembers that every play starts and ends with them keeping an eye on the ball for the whole team, I assure you the schedule and deliverables become routine, and each day will be filled with touchdowns.

Do the Project Managers on your team need training, trading or to be told more often how much you appreciate how they offensively play the game, so you all run defense less often?

To Drafting the Right Quarterback for your Teams,

Suzanne Breistol





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