The Art of Listening in Issue Management: A Project Manager’s Perspective
In the bustling world of digital production, every operation’s leader understands that project management is not merely about timelines, budgets, and deliverables.
Rather, it’s a complex web of relationships, expectations, and unforeseen challenges.
As someone with a background and a former Project Management Professional (PMP) who leads operations in the website and digital production creative sector, I’ve come to appreciate one often undervalued skill: listening.
Listening as a Keystone Skill
Too often, project managers focus solely on ensuring the team reaches its goals, checking off tasks and milestones as they are completed.
While these are fundamental aspects of project management, they miss out on the deeper, more human side of the role.
The project manager should not only be a guiding hand or a voice of authority; they must be adept listeners, tuned into the needs, concerns, and observations of their team.
By being good listeners, project managers can:
- Identify Issues Early: Most problems do not arise overnight. They often start as small concerns or minor misunderstandings or a simple comment made in passing, during a meeting. By paying close attention to team feedback, and discussions a project manager can detect and address these issues before they escalate.
- Model Scenarios: Listening aids in the understanding of different perspectives. This understanding, in turn, provides a clearer picture of potential project challenges. From there, project managers can model different scenarios and create strategies to tackle each one.
- Proactively Plan: Instead of merely reacting to issues as they pop up, good listeners anticipate them. They develop contingency plans and mitigation strategies ahead of time. This ensures that when (and if) the problem arises, there’s already a blueprint in place to address it.
The Symbiosis of Planning and Issue Management
Having an updated project plan is essential.
Still, without a robust issue and risk management plan, even the best-laid plans can unravel.
These two components are symbiotic, each reinforcing the other.
An updated project plan ensures that every team member is on the same page, understands the project’s direction, and is aware of their responsibilities.
Meanwhile, an effective issue & risk management plan ensures that the project remains on track even when unexpected challenges arise.
In essence, the project plan outlines the journey, while the issue & risk management plan ensures that the journey remains smooth, and if there are bumps along the way, the team is well-prepared to handle them.
In today’s fast-paced digital world, where projects evolve rapidly and new challenges arise every day, the role of the project manager extends beyond just “managing”.
It’s about fostering relationships, understanding the intricacies of each project, and being prepared for every eventuality.
And at the heart of this preparedness is the ability to listen actively.
To other project managers out there: Embrace listening. By doing so, you’ll find that you can anticipate challenges before they become crises, making your projects more successful and your teams more cohesive.