In today’s service-based environment, success largely depends on how successfully you complete projects and create value that sustains for longer.
For many aspiring project managers, there are many project management certifications to choose from to expand the scope of their careers and help meet future business demands worldwide. But unfortunately, many projects fail due to various reasons. We are here to address building the right skill set for greater project success.
In this article, we will discuss various critical skills required in the field of project management. These are important skills for project managers to have.
Project Management Soft Skills
Soft skills are what we call “non-technical skills,” or skills that can help you improve the quality of your work without a specific tool or technical requirement. These are also called people skills or interpersonal skills because they help you work with and get along with others in your workplace. The most important soft skills for project management are discussed below:
1. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
Whether a project runs behind schedule or an unexpected problem makes a needed resource unavailable, project managers will find themselves in a wide range of difficult situations.
In problem-solving, they’ll need to use critical thinking to work through the scenario, gather as much information and evidence as possible, and then decide the best next step. Simply put, they can’t act on impulse, and their ability to think critically lets them respond reasonably.
The most important project management skill is leadership quality. Every team has to lead by example. A true leader guides the motivation required and equal proportions of inspiration.
A great leader always ensures the team’s welfare and helps them overcome hurdles and shortcomings. One example where great leadership quality can save your project is when the team encounters a conflict. An efficient project management leader will ensure that the conflict is resolved without hampering the project and the welfare of their team members.
Effective communication in any organization is essential for bringing projects to their conclusion. The collaborative effort from all the teams with a guiding leader is all it takes for a good project to run its course. An efficient project manager can use project management tools for effective communication through chats and other channels.
But, the main focus is to reduce communication errors within the team to a minimum. And with an efficient communication strategy and planning, the project will reach its goal much earlier than anticipated.
4. Time Management
Time is an irreplaceable resource, and as a project manager, you will be responsible for building processes that ensure project completion on time. Therefore, time management skills and project supervision play an important role. The trick is to initiate the right processes and introduce appropriate systems to provide the best results for the project.
Why? Let us consider an example to understand it better.
What if the requirements given by the client have groundbreaking potential in the market? But, the project has been stretched for over six months instead of taking two months. How happy do you think the client would be with this development?
A project manager ensures the project’s delivery within the specified time frame by managing the teams accordingly. Best practices include calculating the story points for every work item and making the plan accordingly. These practices help the teams keep the project’s progress on track.
5. Conflict Management
What happens when two parties are involved in a conflict? Which party is always on the receiving end of it? Who pays for the damages that occurred? Unfortunately, it is always the project.
As a great leader, a project manager will always try to resolve a conflict, keeping in mind the welfare of both parties and, at the same time keeping in check the minimum damage to the project’s progress. To resolve a conflict, the project manager must listen to both parties and devise a solution that solves their problems. Sometimes, the project manager may seek external help to resolve any conflict. In such situations, a great leader will never hesitate to reach out for help and move on.
6. Organizational Skills
An efficient leader will always be familiar with how the organization works in a project management environment. They will be familiar with the various roles and responsibilities in the organization. They know the whole organizational structure inside out. In the case of divided dependencies in the organization, they will be able to get out of it because they are aware of other options and solutions that are useful to them.
7. Team Management
Managing teams is another responsibility that is the backbone of any project. Imagine having all the resources, skills, team members, and project plans in place, but the teams aren’t managed properly, resulting in delays and iterations.
For any effective project management team, the leader takes care of the communication, planning, and schedule to ensure the teams function according to the plans and yield the maximum results.
Technical Project Management Skills
Unlike soft skills, technical skills are quantifiable abilities. While the above-mentioned “soft skills” can be used in many jobs, the following skills are specific to project management. Getting better at these will help you become a better project manager.
1. Project Planning
A project plan is a structured and systematic approach to a project. First, certain factors are ensured before starting a project plan. Then, all the stages in the project management life cycle will be thoroughly analyzed and considered for the whole project plan to work efficiently and effectively.
The following steps can be taken to make a project plan.
Define Your Project
Defining the project will also include ensuring that you have analyzed the project scope, objectives, requirements, deliverables, and schedule.
Define Project Scope Quality
This will cover the necessary measures that must be taken before the project begins so that any setbacks can be handled. Identifying risks, dependencies, and how they would affect the project is handled in the project scope quality. It ensures a standard or quality for the project.
Organize the People for the Project
In this, you will create a structure where each role and responsibility is clearly defined, and there is no confusion in the project.
Define Project Resources
Defining project resources is identifying all the required resources to complete the project.
Project Communications and Change Management Plan
Ensure an effective communication plan among the teams and stakeholders and an effective change management plan.
The project planning skill will drive the whole project from the beginning to the end. And for a project to finish within time, the plan has to be followed at each stage in the project management life cycle.
2. Scope Management Skills
Managing the project’s scope is critical to achieving the project’s goals.
As a project manager, you must ensure that nothing is left behind to achieve the project goal. It primarily concerns three planning processes where the work is defined and captured. Next is controlling and monitoring processes tracking scope creep, and approving / disapproving project changes. Finally, closing the project process where project auditing is done to check for any deviation from the original plan.
3. Project Integration Skills
Project integration is about developing a robust plan and then executing it perfectly. As a project manager, you need to get this right as you will be responsible for making necessary changes as and when required to complete the project.
4. Cost Management Skills
Cost management is a crucial skill for a project manager, as accurate cost estimation is a core component for completing projects successfully. The main objective of cost management is to control and monitor the cost by accurate accounting during the project lifecycle and the use of resources in a cost-effective manner. Cost management also helps to check project costs and ensures the project net spend does not increase the allocated budget at any point.
5. Quality Management Skills
A project manager should possess a keen eye for detail to check on the quality. As per project management standards, quality management is different from quality control. Quality management is about checking the final output of a project to ensure there are no defects. Quality management proactively avoids anything affecting the project’s cost, resources, time, and scope. It also ensures continual improvement of processes throughout the project lifecycle to provide the results that every stakeholder is looking for.
6. Human Resource Management Skills
Having the right people with the right skill set in your project team is a core component for your project to thrive. Human resource management is all about keeping your team happy and productive and ensuring a backup of resources at all times. However, if your project is overstaffed, it might land in a trouble zone and will impact productivity and budget.
As a project manager, you are also responsible for training your team members in project management approaches that you deem the best fit for your project and getting them up to speed.
7. Risk Management Skills
Risk management is a vital part of any project management approach that is out there. As a project manager, it is your job to identify potential risks during a project lifecycle that may have a negative impact on your project. A project manager’s ability to create an effective backup plan with an efficient reporting and response process is critical to project management in an organization.
8. Procurement Management Skills
In an enterprise, every project does not run in-house. A project might need new materials, equipment, sub-contractors, or outsourcing vendors who all fall under procurement.
As a project manager, you are responsible for all the procurements where you have to make decisions that involve when a product or service has to be purchased, selecting suppliers, engaging in contractual agreements, establishing the requirements of the product, etc. A project manager with proper procurement management skills will be an important asset for any organization.
9. Stakeholder Management Skills
Managing stakeholder expectations in a project is critical for any project manager across the globe. A stakeholder can be anybody in the form of your employers, project sponsors, project team members, customers, vendors, etc.
During project estimation, all of your stakeholders’ approval is important for your project to run smoothly. The tricky part is that every stakeholder will have their agenda for the project as a project manager catering to the project that meets every stakeholder’s agenda is very important for the project to be completed successfully and create value for the organization.
10. Project Environment Skills
Holistic progress is possible if project managers focus on creating an enterprise-friendly environment. Of course, we must discuss the physical environment concerning infrastructure, tools, techniques, resources, etc. But, we are discussing creating an environment where the interrelationship between project managers, the team, project sponsors, and other key stakeholders is optimum.
With ever-increasing global projects, the people who comprise such project teams are from multicultural backgrounds. Therefore, a project manager needs to assess the impact of culture on the project and be proactive to create an effective work culture. Hence, it is very important to assess the current project environment that drives certain behaviors, which can be addressed to achieve a higher success rate.
11. Sales Skills
A successful project manager understands the continuous sales cycles during the project’s lifecycle. You have to embrace sales to ensure you get the commitments from your stakeholders, customer, and team, for that matter. So pitch them a classic sales approach that covers benefits, advantages, features, what’s in it for me, etc.
As a project manager, if you know how to address ‘what’s in it for me?” for your stakeholders, team, and customers, then your project will have the least trouble during its lifecycle, and you will be able to complete them on time and within the budget allocated. You may also have to describe the features of your product/solution. It would be even better if you ask questions, listen to them, and tweak your sales pitch accordingly. Project how these benefits will help the enterprise to gain a competitive advantage over others and helps them to bag business-critical projects.
12. Change Management Skills
In an enterprise, change is inevitable, and people who do not embrace change will be left far behind where coming back is difficult. Even project managers dislike change unless it is their idea and want everybody on their side. But, then, you cannot move ahead if you are stuck in an archaic way of doing things and expect to meet the demands of the next generation.
Project Manager Skills That Often Get Overlooked
1. People Management Skills
Today, project managers realize that project management is not just about meeting specified costs, quality, and quicker to the market. It has evolved beyond metrics, and project managers must understand how to manage people. Industry experts believe that one of the core competencies that they look for in a project manager is emotional competency.
Many organizations ignore the team’s interpersonal dynamics, and project managers who fail to teach people management skills will jeopardize their authority over the project, which increases the chances of project failure.
Some important people management skills a project manager requires are managing conflicts in a team, motivating, and training. These are some of the top people management skills that are critical to the successful completion of projects.
2. Horizontal Management Skills
Project managers bridge the gap between the project team, stakeholders, and sponsors. Though these people are not under the control/jurisdiction of a project manager, they need to be managed to ensure the project offers value as per the requirement. This is where horizontal management skills come to the fore, where you get people who work laterally above you in the organization structure to abide by the project plan.
It is best to deal positively with people with vested interests in the project and create a robust communication plan to ensure everything runs smoothly in your project.
3. Managing Expectations
Managing expectations in a project is a key contributor to project success. It requires emotional intelligence from a project manager to gauge what the client expects from the project even before it has started.
Another critical aspect is managing the expectations of your project team members. Understand the roadblocks and what motivates them, and get behind your team by supporting them in their project endeavors. Similarly, if you manage realistic expectations from all your project stakeholders, the project outcome will be successful.
4. Project Management Technical Skills
There are some instances where the project manager plays no role in actual project work, but still, they should have some level of expertise for the project undertaken. It helps the project manager to have a holistic understanding of the project. In addition, his expertise in the technical aspect of the project will come in handy by not taking risks with unacceptable deliverables.
Moreover, refrain from using your technical expertise to micro-manage the project. As project managers, they must lead their teams through difficult situations. Therefore, while selecting their project team members, they include people with some technical expertise related to your project.
5. Have a Good Sense of Humor
Handling a project can be arduous for any person, so it is good to let their guard down and enjoy your work by having a good sense of humor when something unexpected pops up in your project.
One thing is certain: Project will never go exactly as planned, so when they see scope creeps happening, get behind your sense of humor to keep you clear-headed/balanced. If the manager lets too much stress take its toll, employees will surely spend long and stressful nights at the office, which is not good for their health. So instead, remember to smile at an unexpected project change, which sends out positive vibes to the team members who are already in distress.
Top Unexpected Project Manager Skills Recruiters Often Look For
Recruiters have heard how one is a team player, a great communicator, and how organized you are for eternity, so avoid these as they are by default expected in their job role criteria. They would not have selected you for the interview if you did not match those requirements in the first place. Traits are what recruiters look for in a project manager.
1. A Great Listener
He or she should be a great listener if they have to thrive in the job role of a project manager. But most job candidates only talk about how good a communicator they are, and then they talk and talk and talk even more. Another important aspect of communication skills is listening.
Project managers who are good listeners will be able to complete their projects on time and within budget successfully. Being a good listener helps project managers to respond than react to a situation during a project. Again a project manager who is fully aware of what the project requirements are from the customer and what the team is asking them will come down to how good listeners they are. They must listen to everything being told and then comprehend/act towards it correctly.
2. Taking Ownership of Work
Many project managers act as mere delegators of work rather than showing their complete involvement in the project. However, more than delegating the work to the teams and managing stakeholder expectations is required in today’s dynamic project management environment.
A project manager needs to own the project. They must be on top of things from the planning stage to the project’s closing. They must showcase their abilities as an important part of the project, without which the whole project spirals to obscurity. Taking ownership is an important tool in a project manager’s arsenal, which separates them from the rest.
3. Should Embrace Failure
‘Interview’ and ‘Failure’ do not go hand in hand. But when recruiters ask you to share your success stories with them, they are not just looking at how successfully you completed a project on time and within budget. But they are more looking at how you successfully handled a disastrous situation and came out from it.
Many projects fail for various reasons, but mentioning your failure / failed projects in an interview can be instrumental while assessing your candidature. It showcases your maturity and that you learn from your mistakes. In turn, you would have showcased to the recruiters why the project failed and what you would do differently to avoid such a thing. It is this quality that every recruiter looks for when hiring a project manager.
4. Ability to Take Risks
Project managers run far away from the word Risk. Yet, it is the one word that they do not fondly associate with. It just brings too many bad memories to the picture during an interview.
So, why are recruiters looking for project managers who can take risks? The answer is simple; the business market is becoming more competitive. Businesses are required to compete at a global level where they have to release products faster to the market and push the existing boundaries toward being more creative and innovative.
Project managers will only become obsolete if they align themselves with this ever-changing business landscape. A project manager’s job is to navigate the project through the choppy waters safely. Still, they must take two calculated and educated risks to help the project achieve greatness.
5. Creativity Matters
When was the last time, as a project manager, you solved something with your creativity? Unfortunately, if you take more than 30 seconds to recall, you have not been creative in your approach for a very long time, and this is where you need to include a trick or two.
Being creative helps a lot, and you can solve tricky problems earlier. A project never runs smoothly and is bound to get into difficult situations as and when the project progresses through its lifecycle. An experienced project manager will demonstrate their skills to safely navigate the project during a crisis. But what project managers can do is add some creative spark of theirs to the project and come up with surprising and ingenious solutions to problems. Now that is the sort of skill that recruiters wish for when hiring project managers.
Building greater project success depends on the individuals who are part of the project and incorporate strong project management skills. A project manager who can integrate all the elements in an enterprise to come together and integrate skills from multiple disciplines will achieve greater project success. There are infinite combinations of skills that are possible, and as a project manager, one should be open to change so that it can happen around you and help the project achieve its greatness.
- Planning: The process of defining the scope, objectives, and execution of a project
- Resource Allocation: The process of identifying and acquiring the necessary resources (such as personnel, equipment, and materials) needed to complete a project
- Risk Management: The process of identifying, analyzing, and potentially mitigating risks that could impact the success of a project
- Quality Control: Ensuring that a project meets the specified quality standards
- Communication: The process of sharing information and updates with project stakeholders
- Stakeholder Management: The process of engaging and managing the expectations of project stakeholders
- Leadership: The ability to inspire and guide a team toward completing a project