What Are Project Management Skills?
The skills required to be a successful project manager are broadly applicable, and relevant to nearly every industry and most job roles. So what are project management skills, and how can you develop them?
Defining project management skills
Project managers are responsible for more than their job titles might have you think. While they are, indeed, responsible for managing projects, that process typically includes:
- Planning the project from conception to implementation
- Mapping out a timeline
- Executing each phase
- Creating, allocating, and managing the budget
- Communicating among all stakeholders
- Troubleshooting any issues
- Delivering (and often maintaining) the end product or service
To do this effectively, a project manager must be:
- Highly organized
- Detail oriented
- Business savvy, with the ability to see how the project is tied to the organization’s overarching business goals
- People-friendly, with excellent communication skills and the ability to motivate
- Resourceful to adequately manage risk
- Open to self-assessment and evaluation, according to the Project Management Institute
They are the real team leader and motivator, ensuring each stage of the process moves forward and all relevant parties are up to date and on board. There are many hard and soft skills that make a project manager effective, but let’s take a look at some of the key capabilities in more depth.
It goes without saying, but proper project management requires skilled planning on the part of the manager. This encompasses both the big-picture blueprint and the minutiae that bring it to fruition.When it comes to creating the blueprint for the project, the project manager will need to define the scope of the project; describe the resources necessary to complete it; anticipate the time and financial requirements; create a strategy for communicating regularly to stakeholders; map out the steps required for execution and create a schedule for completion; acquire and store the necessary documentation; and suggest a proposal for follow-up and maintenance. In fact, if the project hasn’t been greenlighted yet, this blueprint will become part of the pitch to key decision makers.The project manager will also need to plan the day-to-day management of the project, including prioritizing each activity in each phase, identifying the appropriate team members to talk to about each activity, and scheduling regular check-ins with relevant staff.
Project managers are essentially the team leaders. They are responsible for setting the vision for the team and ensuring everyone is on board and motivated to bring the project through each phase. This requires being able to get buy-in from executives as well as project team members, and ensuring all workers have the time, tools, and other resources they need to get their jobs done. Interpersonal skills are a must.
Going hand in hand with leadership capabilities, excellent communication skills are critical to the success of any project manager. You need to make sure all relevant stakeholders are up to date on the latest goings-on with the project, so as to keep them on board, ensure they understand any changes and potentially head off any issues. This means coming up with a plan for how — and how frequently — to touch base with them. An ability to speak and write clearly and concisely is essential, as is a general approachability and openness to discussion (many project managers have an “open-door” policy to facilitate this).
In a perfect world, your project chugs along without a hitch and you produce your deliverable exactly as planned. But the world isn’t perfect, and projects rarely come to fruition without at least one hiccup or change of plan. That’s why, as a project manager, you need to be a master risk manager, as well. That means having an ability to predict what might go wrong and plan for it, as well as build flexibility into your project plan to account for unexpected changes. Communicating regularly with stakeholders is particularly important. Should any issues arise, you’ll want to make sure the stakeholders understand why the problem occurred, how it’s being handled, and how you’ll prevent it from happening again.
How can I develop project management skills?
There are several ways you can develop project management skills. Namely:
- Read. Get yourself a project management book and study up on your own. Remember that practice makes perfect, so don’t forget to apply your new knowledge on the job.
- Take a course. There are a slew of qualified project management courses from reputable organizations that can improve your skills. The Project Management Institute offers 8 different types of certifications, and other professional organizations around the globe offer additional certifications that can help you develop your project management skills.
- Join an organization. Organizations like PMI, the International Project Management Association (IPMA), and the Association for Project Managers can provide you with tools, resources, and a network of like-minded professionals.
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