Here’s our take on the top 3 project management skills. Ignore them and you will fail.
Last week I had a few minutes spare at St. Pancras International railway station and decided to browse the book shelves of Foyles book store. They were promoting the Kogan Page Business Success series.
I picked up a copy of Effective Project Management* by Paul Roberts and promptly read the introduction. I was impressed to see that Roberts places the same importance as I do on managing stakeholders, controlling a project, and risk management. Accordingly, I purchased a copy.
Top 3 Project Management Skills
But this isn’t a review of the book. Rather this is my take on the top 3 project management skills or attributes needed to keep your projects under control. What’s more, these are the main project management themes you will read about at Leadership Thoughts.
Who has a stake in your project? Let’s see… there’s your sponsor and other senior executives. Your immediate project team, colleagues from IT, business analysts, accountants, procurement category managers, legal services… and so on.
Then there’s those people affected by the change you are implementing. Directors, senior managers, middle managers, team leaders, customer service agents, administrators, subject matter experts ad infinitum. And then there’s the external suppliers, consultants, contractors, customers, retailers, communities, agencies etcetera.
The project manager has to deal with many people who have a different take on your project and may or may not be hostile towards your goals. Most likely they are indifferent or unaware of your plans. Or at least until you need them on side.
Simply put, you cannot deliver projects successfully unless you manage your stakeholders. In essence this means you need to understand both the importance and the needs of stakeholder groups and learn how to communicate in the most appropriate and effective way. This is why stakeholder management is one of the top 3 project management skills.
Projects are complex things. Projects are one-off undertakings. They’re nothing like business-as-usual activities with predefined roles, responsibilities, and procedures.
Sometimes you won’t know what you want or how to do it. Or perhaps you know what is needed but you’ve never done anything like it before. Occasionally you have to make it up as you go along. But rarely is everything straightforward. To a greater or lesser degree projects are a journey into the unknown. And uncertainty breeds risk.
The project manager needs to spend much time identifying and managing problems and risks. Indeed you need to imagine what may go wrong and then work out how to reduce the risk of these things happening.
Your goal is to eliminate risk altogether. Of course that’s not possible and you will learn that there are times when you need to deal quickly and decisively with project issues. Which is another reason for having your stakeholders on-board. Moreover, the project manager must be open and honest. Risks and issues belong out in the open. If not, they will sink you!
Planning and Control
Planning and control is the last of the top 3 project management skills. It is the raison d’être of the project manager. You plan work. At first in outline and then in more detail as your project progresses. Next you, or rather your team, do work. And you check progress against the plan.
The project manager also creates an environment where any change to the project plan is fed back. You take corrective action. You review and manage risks and issues, the attitudes and behaviours of stakeholders, and implement the communication plan. You report to your sponsor and other senior executives. And you start over again. You follow this cycle week in week out and over time you deliver parts of the project.
The project manager is a very particular kind of manager—or leader—who is well versed in the top 3 project management skills: the successful engagement of stakeholders, the management of risk, and keeping the project under control.
Have Your Say
Do you agree with our top 3 project management skills? If not, tell us why. Please join the discussion.