8 Essential Project Management Skills
The first logical step in starting a career as a Project Manager is to gain a trusted and accredited project management certification such as PRINCE2. AGILE, MSP or PMP. This will show that you have gained an understanding of how a project is run and will boost your chances at being hired. This may, however, not be enough to prove yourself as a well-rounded Project Manager as there is much to be said about the essential project management skills that may not be taught during your educational training. This is where the difference between knowledge and skill becomes evident.
- Managing Your Resources
- Managing Risk
- Managing Schedules
- Managing Change
- Stay Organised
- Be a Leader
- Keep Calm
Resources are usually seen as equipment or money that needs to be allocated to the right individuals or teams at the right time. But an often overlooked resource is the individuals that make up your project teams. Ensuring that each team member knows what to do and when to do it is of the utmost importance, but you need to ensure that the right person is doing the work that they are trained to do.
Each team member will have a certain specialisation and forcing them into an unfamiliar role can cause confusion and will almost certainly see that employee’s morale drop. This can have a serious negative effect on the work being done and will, ultimately, effect the overall quality and progress of the project.
It would be superfluous to expect a project to run perfectly from start to finish. Every project has it’s own unique risks and challenges that will either be known at the beginning of the project, or will be realised as the project progresses. The difference between a good Project Manager and a great one lies in the way that risks are managed.
As risks arise, it is best to keep calm and decide which course of action is to be taken in order to ensure the risk is properly planned for. Gather suggestions from your fellow project workers, draw up a plan of action and stick to it. Putting value in the input of your project team will show them that you respect their skills and knowledge and understand that you cannot run a project by yourself.
Your project schedule is one of the most important tools that you will use during a project. It contains all the information you will need to delegate the tasks that need to be completed – and when they need to be completed by. It is essential that each task is started on time by the person that the task has been allocated to.
This extends into keeping track of each task. The progress of work being done needs to be monitored to ensure that the deadlines that you have established are met. Failure to do so can cause the project to fall behind and cause issues where they could’ve been prevented.
There is a very good chance that change will come about when working on a project. You may need to adjust your expected time of delivery, there may be changes that are requested by the customer or you may need to adjust your project plan due to an unforeseen circumstance.
Changes that need to be made, or are requested, need to be recorded and decided upon. Ensure that you are aware of the impact that the change will have on the overall project and what steps will need to be taken to ensure that the project stays on track. Once this has been documented, a decision will be made by the project board, or the equivalent authoritative figure.
The sheer amount of information that goes along with running a project can be overwhelming and, if left unchecked, can become messy and disorganised. This can cause detrimental problems to your project as you need to have every bit of information easily accessible and well-organised.
When your information is kept organised, it becomes mush easier to measure the intended progress of the project versus actual progress, keep track of tasks that are being completed or need to be started and to ensure that everyone involved in the project is kept up to date with their individual tasks and responsibilities.
One of the most important soft skills that a Project Manager needs to master is being a good communicator. Without proper communication, chaos can quickly ensue and cause irreversible damage to the project. The ability to relay important information will ensure that your project team is kept in the loop when there are changes that need to be made, when they need clarification on an issue or keeping everyone up to date with the project’s progress.
But communication works both ways. Being a good listener can be invaluable when working with other project professionals. Someone in your project team may have a solution that you haven’t thought of, or they may have a suggestion that will help the project move forward at a faster rate. This will also help your project team understand that their opinions aren’t shrugged off and could actually make a difference.
Bringing leadership into your management style could make a massive difference to the respect that you earn as a Project Manager. There are many Project Managers that are happy to delegate project tasks as they arise. This is not an ineffective management style, but it can make the Project Manager seem uninvolved and unapproachable.
Being a leader involves more than barking orders. A true leader will do just that – lead by example. Being involved in the every day running of the project without hindering the work that is being done will not only show that you have a hands-on approach to management, but will ensure that you have a better understanding of project progress, issue management and will show your project team that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty.
Being a Project Manager very often means that you will be working under pressure, with lurking deadlines, ensuring the quality of the finished project, reporting to your superiors – all whilst making sure that the project remains on it’s intended track. With so many factors to consider, there is a good chance that something will go wrong somewhere down the line.
Keeping a calm, collected demeanour will make all the difference in this situation. It is never a good idea to lose your temper or become flustered when you feel that you are overwhelmed. The best solution will be a well thought out one, rather than a decision made in haste and panic.
Having a good balance between the knowledge that you are taught during your project management training and the skills that are developed during the course of your career is the key to becoming a great and respected Project Manager.