Project Management Skills
There are a range of project management skills which need to be mastered in order to run successful projects. This article looks at these skills and gives some ideas on how to develop them.
The good news is that skills can be learnt, practised and mastered. Consequently it is useful to review these skills and reflect on which ones we need to develop.
This article explores the skills required to manage projects. It is based on typical projects in an office environment. The kind of projects that are found in any organisation.
Recognising it's a Project!
At first it sounds too obvious but a key skill in project management skill is to recognise a project when we see one. This means we should look at a piece of work and see that it is a project.
When a piece of work is recognised as a project it means it needs planning and careful thought. It can’t just be done quickly. One of the common causes of failure in projects is when the work is not recognised as a project in the first place.
Project Management Skills - Organisation
One of the key project management skills is being organised. This is because project management is all about being organised. We can replace one word for the other. Project management means project organisation.
Some people have the skill of being naturally organised. Others develop organisation through learning and practice.
The organised project manager has a plan. They spend time making sure that plan is thorough and considers all aspect of the project. They think carefully about who needs to be involved in the project. The organised project manager has files and folders structured for easy access by all those who need to see them. They reflect on how the project fits into the organisation’s objectives. As a result the organised project manager is efficient in they way they run their projects.
Project Management Skills - Planning
Planning is a very important skill in project management. In project management planning is vital because it relates to all the thinking we need to do before we go into action.
Planning means deciding what is going to be done, when it’s going to be done and who is going to do it.
Planning a project will typically take a minimum of a day in time. This is because there is a lot to plan. Questions need to be answered.
Here are some of the key questions to ask yourself:
- What is the project objective?
- What are the benefits for the organisation?
- Who needs to be involved in the project?
- What is a realistic deadline for completion?
- What assumptions is the project based on?
- Who is impacted but not involved?
- What are the milestones for the project?
- How much time will each step of the project take?
Understanding & Working with People
One of the factors that makes a piece of work a project is if it involves more than one person. This means it is important to understand the people in the project and how to work with them.
To understand people the successful project manager uses tools and frameworks. Concepts like the Myers Briggs model or DISC model can be used. An easier model is the Work Styles Model which is simple to understand and easy to apply. All these models work by identifying characteristics of people at work. They are based on the research of Carl Jung. The Work Styles Model identifies four key characteristic groups:
Social: Easy to work with, likes working with people, very helpful, keen to please and very friendly.
Conceptual: Enthusiastic, good at solving problems, prefers the big picture and enjoys change.
Analytical: Very good at the detail of work, enjoys gaining knowledge, needs to reflect before making decisions and produces high quality work.
Direct: Driven to get things done, very decisive, likes clear goals, and makes things. happen.
The idea is that if you can identify the characteristics of a colleague, and therefore understand them more, you can work with them in a more effective way.
Project Management Skills - Communication
Communication is one of the key project management skills. This is because many projects involve working with people. These may be in a team, but more than likely it will involve people in other teams and other organisations. As a result it is important to make sure our communication skills are good enough to manage projects.
Good communication means making sure everyone knows what they need to know when they need to know it. It means giving easy access to information resources. Seeing things from other people’s perspective is key here. It is easy to think people know what they need to but in reality it is important to make sure they do.
A summary of key elements of communication in project management:
- Easy access to data.
- Updates on news, what has been achieved and expectations.
- Use a clear project name in your email subject line, so that people can notice and find emails easily.
- Communicate changes in the project, including deadline changes and objective changes.
- Consider the personality of other people and what their requirements for communication will be.
- When tasks have not been achieved on time, inter-dependency updates should be communicated immediately.
- Messages from project sponsors need to be passed on to the project team.
- Remember to communicate updates to those people away on holiday, who may not read all their emails on return.
- Consider using a social media app, like Whats App for some project communications.
Some people have the sort of personality where discipline comes naturally. Others have strengths elsewhere. Wherever your strengths lie, another one of the key project management skills is discipline. This means making sure communication is carried out in a timely fashion. It means that commitments are delivered on time. It also means that the project is run with expectations managed throughout the process.
Discipline is also found in planning your project thoroughly and completing tasks to the correct amount of attention to detail.
Project Management Skills - People Management
Managing people is one of those areas which seems almost too obvious to be included in a list of project management skills. But it is worthy of mention because managing people is fundamental to managing projects. Managing people includes other areas mentioned here including communication, discipline, understanding and working with people, but it includes other management skills. Most of all it means making sure those people under direct responsibility do what they are expected to do and do it in a timely fashion.
It might seem odd to include experience in an article on project management skills. Learning from the experience of others is a skill which can be learnt and implemented. Learning from the success and failure of other projects in the organisation can be especially relevant. Avoiding previous mistakes is a great skill to gain.
On Time & On Budget
Delivering projects on time and on budget is a key skill. This means the project is completed within the timescales set for it. And it means the total cost of the project is at or below the allocated budget