List-making is one technique for examining thoughts. I made a fairly long list of everything a project manager might have to do in the course of an assignment. I ran through that list a couple of times and got it down to 18 items that sum up what I think project management is all about.
The first 9 things are more concrete; easier to accomplish by following a book or template or checklist than the second 9. I've called the first set the "hard skills" 9. The second 9 activities are squishier; more dependent on experience and a gut-sense about people and situations; obviously, I've labelled them the "soft skills."
The "hard skills" 9
- Prepare and present status reports. Chair demonstrations and planning sessions.
- Create or identify effective visualizations of status and objectives. Know how and when to use them.
- Convene estimation sessions and document results. Transform estimates into feasible budgets and plans.
- Track velocity and maintain current projections of the project's likely progress.
- Schedule meetings and milestone events (UAT, releases, etc.). Insure that necessary staffing, equipment and information are in place.
- On-board new team members.
- Evaluate people.
- Coach people.
- Treat your team to fun and games.
The "soft skills" 9
- Set goals and vision for the team. Channel constructive feedback to your team.
- Monitor development progress & facilitate blockages. Know when your team doesn't know or have something it needs; help the team fill the gap.
- Convene team discussions on issues & get decisions agreed; help the team resolve conflicts.
- Nurture stakeholder confidence in the team.
- Proactively meet with clients to discuss their issues, goals and concerns.
- Deliver bad news and present possible solutions to clients & leaders. Help the client understand and control scope.
- Make tough decisions when everything is stalled. Prioritize work or requirements if needed (proxy product owner).
- Defend your team from abusive stakeholders and leaders. Maintain productive operational patterns and sustainable pace.
- Be a caretaker of the application's integrity & quality.