A project managers toolbox should include all of the tools needed to plan, execute and deliver a project. Here are five key skills a good project manager should have and continuously work to improve on.
Knowledge of the Company
Even the most skilled project manager can fall flat on their face if they are not familiar with company. You should be aware of the company culture, the personalities and politics of those you interact with and the company or department polices you must follow. To push your project to completion you will need it interact with many people. Stakeholders each have their own agenda and their own politics. To avoid political suicide learn these. To avoid procedural blunders that could stall your project find out the policies and procedures related to your project.
People skills will help you deal with the stakeholders, but this skill is also vital in working with your team and other departments. While a project manager may think they can require whatever they want based on the fact that “they are THE project manager”, in fact your formal authority is not as important as your skills of persuasion. Being able to clearly communicate to your team is vital. They need to know what is expected of them and what the desired result is. Do not be a dictator or so deep into managing the project that you forget about your team. You are the head of the team, the leader. You must be visible and engaged each day.
Project Management Skills
Should not project management skills be at the top of the list? Mastery of the first two skills is vital to the success of a project. All of the project management skills in the world will not save you if you lack the first two skills.
You must be able to plan and execute a project. Execute a budget based on realistic estimates of costs. Prepare workable schedules for the project and your team. It is impossible to go into every project management skill here. A few of the key skills needed are planning, strategy and clearly written reports. Never forget risk management. Analyze risks and develop a risk management approach that includes contingency plans. Be proactive in looking for risks that could set back your project.
If your project management skills are limited, or outdated you should consider taking private training, workshops, seminars or courses at a technical or community college. There are also project management organizations such as the Project Management Institute that can help.
A successful project must be fully integrated. Planning, execution, reporting with metrics and project control are all key elements in a project and must be coordinated so they all work together. Integration means you and your team must be on top of every aspect of the project to be sure everything is in alignment.
Even if a project manager plays no role in the actual work of the project they should have some expertise in the area the project covers. It gives the project manager a better understanding of all aspects of the project from planning to deployment. The more expertise the project manager has in the technical area of the project the less likely risks or unacceptable deliverables will be.
Technical skills should not be used to micro-manage a project. The job of the project manager is to manage the project and lead the team, not to do the work yourself. Guidance and sharing knowledge with team members is a benefit of technical expertise and should be used. When you are selecting team members try to include people with the technical expertise related to the project if possible.
Knowledge of the company, the politics and policies will help avoid pitfalls and delays. The people skills of a project manager are used in every aspect of the project. Clear communications with stakeholders and team members is a vital skill. Project management skills give you the tools to plan, develop and deploy a project. If your skills or outdated or lacking you should seek improvement. Continuous improvement of your skills will make you a more successful project manager. All areas of a project must be integrated. Often projects become “cowboys on the range” with little oversight and communications. The project manager, team members and stakeholders must be on top of every aspect of the project. Technical skills in the area of the project can help deliver a more useful product to the company.
A project manager must have many skills to be effective. These are only a few basic skills. Problem solving skills are also important. Every project will run into problems. A project manager should always ask “What can go wrong?” and “What will I do if this happens?” The successful project manager uses their experience, knowledge and skills to guide a project to a successful conclusion.