10 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers

    2=Planning, 3=Execution, 4=Control, 5=Closing

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How can individuals produce intended or desired results in their projects? In this article, let's explore 10 habits of highly effective project managers. Forming habits requires time and effort. Let's decide first which ones would be most helpful.

10 Habits of Effective Project Managers


Define what you mean by risk

The term "risk" means different things to different people. Some individuals think risks are negative events (i.e., threats); others include positive events (i.e., opportunities). Whether you are starting a project or a program, be clear about what you mean by the term risk.


Define and use a risk management plan

Many project managers and project teams approach their projects with no idea of how they plan to identify risks, assess risks, define risk response plans, implement response plans, or monitor risks. Don't make this mistake. Define a risk management plan and reach agreement with your team as to the approach and the amount of rigor you plan to use.



Create and use a risk register

Where will you capture your risks? What will you include in the Risk Register? Keep the register simple and transparent. Make sure all of your team members have easy access to the register.


Encourage team members in their risk management

Use your leadership skills to influence your team. Educate team members on the value of risk management. Recognize team members when they are proactive in risk management.


Ask your team for help in assessing risks

At a minimum, perform a simple qualitative risk analysis to prioritize your risks. Still need additional information in order to make decisions? Need to estimate budget reserves? Perform a quantitative risk analysis.

"Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing." –Warren Buffett


Assign risk owners

Many project managers have a bad habit — they own ALL the risks. Why? Perhaps the project manager thinks it's too much trouble to identify and recruit risk owners.

Yes, recruiting risk owners may require time, but in the long run, you'll be much better off. You will have the individuals with the right skills to monitor the risks and execute the response plans when needed.


Have risk owners develop risk response plans

Keep things simple. Have the risk owners develop risk response plans for the most significant risks only, those risks with the highest risk scores. Determine whether a contingency plan is required for each of the top risks.


Monitor your risks regularly

Project managers often start their projects with a risk identification workshop. However, many project managers fail to maintain the discipline of risk management. Make sure you periodically review and update your risks in your risk register. 


Report the most significant risks to the project sponsor

Keep you sponsor engaged. Report the top risks to your sponsor. Forget email. Seek face to face meetings. Keep it brief and to the point.


Close out the risks

When most project managers finish one project, they jump straight into their next project. As you close each project, take time to review every risk in the risk register. Determine what happened: (a) risk did not occur, (b) occurred and contingency plan was used, or (c) occurred and impact to the project. This final risk review can provide valuable insights for future projects.

Your Turn

Forming habits requires repetition. Pick a few of these habits for your next few projects. Repeat the activities for three to four weeks. It may be helpful to create a reminder to perform each activity at a specific time. Track the habit. Add additional habits over time until you are performing all 10 habits with ease. 

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