Often times Project Managers are referred to as the “quarterback” of a project. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a football fan, or maybe it’s because it makes me feel cool to compare myself to the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but I couldn’t find this comparison to be any truer.
Just like a quarterback, a Project Manager needs to have their head in the game at all times; working with every coach and teammate to call the right play, at the right time, to get the job done. We need to be consistently sending the proper signals with clear and constant communication so that the right team member does the right thing at the right time. And let’s not forget it all needs to be to the satisfaction of the crowd…and within the salary cap.
Skills pay the bills
There are certain obvious skills that make a good quarterback, just like a good Project Manager. Skills that one can learn, practice, develop and improve upon over time. But to be great at both, you need to have an innate instinct and intuition – something that can’t necessarily be taught. When the clock is winding down, your team is behind, and the original play that was called has broken down, great QBs and great PMs will think quickly on their feet to make decisions that are best for the team to reach the end goal.
Calling the right play
I’m reminded of the time we were performing some extensive annual upgrades to the website of a longtime client, when the Project Manager got sick and needed to be out for a few weeks; they were now on the injured reserve list (to carry on with the football analogies). As the Lead Project Manager, I quickly enlisted a member of our sales team, who was already familiar with the client and their requirements, and subbed him in to make sure the remainder of the project went smoothly. Things move fast, and you have to have a team willing to move fast as well.
So, while the title “Project Manager” might not be as sexy as “Quarterback”, the buck stops with both; and while projects and games are won or lost as a team, a good PM and QB ultimately take ownership of the outcome, learn from mistakes and implement change for the future.