In an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace, project management remains among the most sought-after skill sets. Projects of any size can benefit from the expertise and know-how of a highly trained project manager, from the planning stage through execution and closeout.
Steve Hart is a practice manager for the Cardinal Solutions Group in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. With more than a quarter century of experience in project management and leadership, he currently is responsible for project leadership and delivery services.
Steve is a Project Management Professional and a member of the North Carolina Chapter Project Management Institute. Through his blog, pm-foundations.com, he shares his knowledge, experience and passion for project management.
Steve is an avid sports fan. He and his wife have lived in Raleigh since 2010, after more than 30 years in Ohio.
I have a BS in business from Miami (Ohio) University and an MBA from the University of Dayton. My major at Miami was in accounting, which I have found very useful when performing the analytical and cost management elements of the project management role. After spending over 20 years working on projects, I decided to become “official” and obtained my PMP®(Project Management Professional certification) in March 2006.
I spent my first five years out of college working as an internal auditor and financial analyst. In 1985, I was assigned to a major manufacturing system implementation project as the finance subject matter expert. That was my entry point into the world of IT and project work, and I have never looked back. During the subsequent years, in a variety of project roles and IT leadership positions, I performed most elements of project management.
In 2006, partly by choice and partly not, my official title became “project manager.” In 2008, I switched sides of the desk, from client to consultant, and I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experiences with clients."
My focus as a consultant includes mentoring/coaching project managers, managing projects and programs, and helping project offices improve their overall project management competency level.
As a project manager, I generally have full responsibility and authority to lead and manage projects to realize successful outcomes through all phases of the project – planning, execution, and closeout. Important responsibilities of the project manager include creating and managing the schedule, creating and managing the budget, managing project risks and issues, facilitating team meetings, measuring and managing project performance, managing change and developing stakeholder relationships.
Successfully completing a project that meets or exceeds expectations of a client is very satisfying as a project leader. The fact that projects have a beginning and end is why I enjoy project work so much. Each project represents a chapter in your life, filled with new people and new learning opportunities. The second part of project management that I find equally rewarding is the project team; a diverse group of people working together to achieve a common set of goals is a wonderful experience. The project manager has significant influence on the overall project environment, and the way team members interact and collaborate.
The projects I enjoy the most are those that provide the opportunity to learn and grow professionally. This learning and growth come in many different shapes and forms – new technologies, new business processes, new problems to solve and new approaches to solving the problems. For those of us who thrive on continuous learning, there is nothing better than being assigned to a new client or project.
From a personal challenge and achievement perspective, I would say my “best” project was managing my company’s initial venture in the e-commerce space. In seven months, we were able to build and launch our first Internet application, using our first offshore delivery team – a lot of firsts and a new product/service delivered with strong market acceptance.
Even though I had been working for many years performing the role of a project manager, at the point in my career when I was given the title of “project manager” I felt it was important to validate that I had the experience and knowledge to consistently and effectively be a project manager.
As I have moved into the world of consulting, the PMP establishes a certain level of credibility and trust with new clients and has made me thankful that I made the decision to become a PMP."
When I decided to obtain my PMP certification, I treated the process as a learning experience. I created a project schedule for preparing for and taking the exam, and completed the project on the exact day reflected in my original baseline (much less challenging when you are managing a project team of one). At the end of the process, I felt like I had become a better project manager by learning new techniques and reviewing processes/tools that I had been exposed to over the years. My advice to project managers is to make sure you are pursuing the PMP for the right reasons. The goal is to become a more knowledgeable and effective project manager, not a person with PMP in their auto-signature.
When interviewing potential project management candidates there are certain qualities, skills and experiences you are looking for that are part of the DNA of a successful project manager. The skills and capabilities I consider to be the most important are facilitation, attention to detail, financial aptitude, technology/tools savvy, active listening, flexibility (to respond to needs of the team) and conflict resolution.
Maintain a high level of enthusiasm and passion. Assuming that you are like me and really enjoy project work, make sure the team knows it. You need to consistently model the attitude and enthusiasm you want the team to feel throughout the project. If the project manager does not believe the team can be successful, who does? It is amazing how quickly the team will get discouraged when you display negative vibes about the project, either verbally or non-verbally.
When faced with difficult tasks or people, I remind myself of what I enjoy about the challenge the project is providing, the team I am working with and the opportunity to learn something new.