Before discussing what the key skills for a project manager might be we really need to define what we mean by project management. A definition of project management would be the planning, organizing and then management of the resources required to complete a specific task. The essential point here is that the aims and objectives for the accomplishment of the task will be highly focused requiring you to fully understand these seven key skills.
More correctly referred to as impact analysis a key skill required toward the final stages of a project is the ability to analyse the impact of changes brought about by the project. Exactly the same as the well known ‘ripple effect‘ you must never underestimate the knock-on changes and effect that a major project can bring about. Being able to analyse and then manage these is yet another skill you need to master. Changes to the specification of a project after it has begun are all too easily overlooked and you will need to constantly revisit your impact analysis to incorporate them. Amongst other things any change to the specification could affect your previous analysis regarding legal, health, safety, and marketing or personnel issues. However, the ultimate reason for doing the analysis is – how the change will affect the end-date for the project? Project management is a complex task and the bigger the project, the more complex it becomes. You must be able to keep track of progress on the project from all the various sections of it that are on-going. This can be done on paper, but in all reality you need to learn and understand how to make the most out of one of the many pieces of project management software that are available. Using an IT based project management system will also help you to adjust timelines and priorities as the project develops.
If you can’t communicate, I’m sorry but you’ll never become an effective and successful project management. Any manager, but especially the project manager, has to understand that although you’re charged with ensuring the successful completion of a project – you’ll be dealing with a multiplicity of people and companies that you have to bring together in order to achieve the projects aims and objectives. If you don’t communicate effectively, either in speech, writing or presentations you won’t provide the information that your workers need to fulfill their jobs; be that in sharing knowledge, discussing ideas, providing solutions or making an executive decision.
Even if you have a team of accountants looking after the day-to-day running of the projects finances, understanding how to use a budget yourself is another essential project management skill to posses. The three key stages to a budget are preparing it, writing it and monitoring it. whilst your finance department may well be ostensibly charged with doing these things for you – as project manager you have the ultimate responsibility for the budget and need to be able to understand what you are being told about the budget. Unless your own background is in accounting you will feel obliged to accept what you’re told, if you don’t take the time to learn some basic budgeting skills. You will need these as at time you will need to know how to rationally and logically challenge budget over-runs that you become aware of as well as be able to sensibly monitor the budget as the project progresses.
The essence of any good project manager is to be a good team leader and, if necessary, be a good team player. Whilst decisions will remain your responsibility, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t encourage input from others or be prepared to work with them to help them achieve their goals too. Furthermore, by building a culture of teamwork into all aspects of the project, you will engender high self-esteem within all of the workers, meaning that they feel personally involved in ensuring the success of the project.
This doesn’t mean to say that you have to have a string of letters after your name as intelligence isn’t something you can learn. However, intelligence is something you can improve on and develop, so the more you study the chances are the more you’ll increase your intelligence. In the context of project management intelligence can be considered to be your ability to have a clear vision of all aspects of the project whilst at any one time being able to keenly focus onto a specific aspect of it. Put another way, just having the big picture will not help when you have a decision to make on a specific matter. You won’t always have the time to spend hours researching and re-reading material in order to make the decision at the time it is needed.
It is almost inevitable that at times your job will be stressful, if not highly stressful. Being able to work calmly under such conditions is an absolute pre-requisite for a successful project manager. A key point to reducing your stress levels is your ability to move on from a setback. If something goes wrong or not according to plan, don’t waste time worrying about who’s fault it might have been or get involved in a cycle of what could have been different, that can come later in your project evaluation. Instead, move swiftly on to solving the problem or rectifying the situation.
Quite simply – are you a good time manager? Understanding the life-cycle for project management will help you to understand how to apply the key skill of time management to it. Your time management and you ability to organize yourself and others are vitally important. Time management is much more than simply allocating portions of time to certain jobs. You need to analyze exactly what it is you’re spending your time on and how important are those tasks and portions of time to the successful completion of the project. For example, you could easily spend up to an hour a day just reading emails. This is a task you can delegate to your PA, get them to be the person that sorts the important from the not so important, telling you what needs dealing with immediate and what can be left until later. That hour you’ve saved – you can use inspecting a part of the project checking on progress or quality etc. You should apply this time management philosophy to most things you do; do I need to attend that meeting or can I delegate someone else? Remember, you are the project manager, you are primarily there to do the strategic planning, overall monitoring and be creative and innovative in solving problems – not micro-manage everything.