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How being a project manager improved (and is still improving) my communication skills

Rasmussen-Paul-2A little background about myself first. I worked my way up through the ranks to become a project manager: intern, developer, senior developer, scrum master and currently project manager. From the start of my career, I always loved working with the business and trying to understand what the current challenge was and how IT could help make their job simpler, faster and have a more reliable outcome.

As my communication skills improved and I learned that each client has different needs and expectations, I knew I wanted to become that “go to” person. You know, that guy that ties the client to the development team.

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The importance of clear communication in Agile methodology

As a project manager at Omni I find myself doing many activities and assuming many roles on a daily basis. There is the role of the scrum master leading daily standups, running sprint reviews, leading sprint grooming and sprint planning sessions—making sure my teams have a clear understanding of the priorities and goals they have today and what’s coming to them tomorrow.

Then, there is the true project management aspect. Some of the responsibilities include communication to the client on project status and budget. This means making sure client expectations are met on a daily/weekly/monthly time frame. I always put myself in the client’s shoes and answer these questions:

  1. Is my project on schedule?
    1. If it's not, how does it get back on schedule?
    2. What are we doing so this does not happen again?
  2. What is my budget vs project progress?
    1. Projection on where we will be at the end for both budget and project.
  3. What are the potential roadblocks that may be coming?
    1. Action items needed before it becomes an issue.

I found that if you can give the client the answers to those simple questions and have clear and precise communication on a continual basis, good things will happen. I work very hard with the development team and client to understand what their needs and concerns are. You need to understand both sides in order to paint the expected picture. That picture can be broken into smaller pictures as well. Depending on who you are talking to, the needed picture changes. As you can imagine, the CEO of a company has different questions than the business expert but each question must be answered fully in order to gain their trust.

Once I have the client’s trust it is a much easier conversation for both good and bad news. Clients need to know that you understand what is happening during the project and are doing everything you can to continue the current quality work or to correct an issue that has been found. One of my goals is to never have to “surprise” a client with news. If possible, the client should already know about it.

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A good Agile scrum master is one who communicates — good news and bad.

Overall, being a project manager is all about communication here at Omni. There are lots of tools that can help you manage a project. Using these tools to understand the past, present and future of your project is a great advantage. For me, what differentiates one project manager from another is their communication of the above three questions. It is a great feeling when you can review the status report with the client and the client response with “I have no questions.”

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Paul Rasmussen

About Author Paul Rasmussen

Paul wants to live in a world where he can golf every day of the year, he has an unlimited number of “Do Overs," and he hits every goal he sets for himself. As a project manager, one of Paul’s strengths lies in managing multi-faceted Agile projects. After tackling some tough ones, he’s learned a lot about which management styles do and don’t work in a given situation, when and how to ask the hard questions, and how to identify who can be counted on at critical junctures. Throughout the project cycle, he strives to give team members and clients more than what they expect. “When I can do that, it’s amazing to see the lasting business and personal relationships that are made.” Outside of work, you are likely to find Paul at the golf course, brewing up his own specialty beer, or whipping up something new and crazy for Saturday breakfast. The past few years he has spent an inordinate amount of time assembling toys for his kids. Paul grew up in Sparta, near LaCrosse WI. He graduated with a degree in Management Information Services from UW - Oshkosh. He and his wife Jody have two daughters (Maddison & Skylar) and a son (Dyllan).


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