Project management is the process of facilitating teams and coordinating resources to achieve a particular business objective; it is an essential practice for the continued growth, development and success of an organisation. Project managers need to be equipped with a specific skill set, comprising both hard and soft skills, that allows them to effectively guide their team members and mitigate risks along the way.
Project Management skills – why do you need them?
Project managers carry a huge amount of responsibility, particularly in industries where the successful completion of projects drives success, such as construction and software development. To be trusted with the management of business projects, senior executives need to know that you are capable of carrying out the necessary duties and equipped with the specific skills needed to drive innovation, solve problems, coordinate team members, stick to a budget, and deliver work within the specified timeframe.
Top nine skills in Project Management
You can expand and refine your hard skill set through training, education and experience. Hard skills needed in project management include:
Projects are often undertaken with the intention of increasing business profit; therefore, it is absolutely essential that you are able to keep spending in line with a project’s predetermined budget. As projects are constantly evolving and changing, budget management should be a responsive, ongoing process that is integrated into project review stages. To budget successfully, you should have a comprehensive understanding of business finance so that you can accurately analyse project spending and implement cost-effective solutions where necessary.
Reviewing and reporting
Reviewing and reporting form an integral part of the project process. You need to be equipped to accurately and reliably assess the progress of team members and the project itself throughout its duration. Furthermore, you need to be confident in your ability to meet with important stakeholders, senior executives and investors, and effectively communicate the project status. Good reporting requires proficiency in relevant software and tools, effective and confident communication, and attention to detail.
While a project manager needs to be able to think on their feet and implement solutions as problems arise, they also need to be able to comprehensively and proactively plan all steps of the project process. Effective planning and smart resource allocation ensures that risks are reduced, team members are aligned, and responsibilities are clearly defined. Furthermore, it will be difficult to find project investors unless you have a solid plan of attack that assures maximum chances of success.
Unfortunately, every project is bound to run into some problems at one stage or another. It is the job of a project manager to ensure that a business is taking steps to minimise risks and neutralise threats to a project’s success. For maximum protection, a business’ risk management approach needs to be standardised, structured and comprehensive so that the project can be protected from as many categories of risk as possible.
While the above hard skills are essential for proper project management, we must be careful not to underestimate the value of soft skills. These are defined as competencies which cannot necessarily be measured or learnt from a book. Nowadays, employers and recruiters tend to place high value on soft skills when looking to hire new talent, as it can be easy to teach a person how to work within specific structures and tools, but it is much more difficult to train someone in emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.
Examples of soft skills for project managers include:
At the end of the day, the job of a project manager is to lead a team to success. Therefore, it is important that project managers possess strong leadership skills that allow them to build a supportive culture in which team members feel empowered and trusted. To become an effective leader, you need to have a deep self-awareness and an understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, you need to take into account the human limitations of your team members so that you can provide support and flexibility where needed.
How to develop leadership skills
It is crucial that all members of the project team understand exactly what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and who needs to be doing it. Miscommunication is sure to throw a spanner in the works, and is likely to cause frustration and tension. To be a successful project manager, you need to be able to clearly communicate with a wide range of people including employees, contractors, executives, shareholders and investors. Furthermore, you need to be receptive to constructive criticism and able to have difficult conversations with people both above and below you in the chain of command.
Patience and flexibility
Tensions can be high during the planning and execution of a project, and it is highly likely that human factors will hold up the process from time to time. While it is a project manager’s job to keep plans on track, you also need to remember that growing trust and confidence in your team is what is ultimately going to guarantee success. You need to find a balance between enforcing the rules, and allowing your team to make mistakes and learn
Project managers need to be able to keep their fingers in a lot of pies while maintaining control of the project as a whole. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed at times, but it is important that you are able to regain composure and do what needs to be done.
A large portion of project management involves thinking on your feet and developing solutions for problems that arise due to unforeseen circumstances. It is therefore important that you are able to approach obstacles with a calm, clear and positive mindset.
How to refine Project Management skills
If you are considering pursuing project management, but you are concerned that you do not possess the necessary toolkit, the best thing you can do is gain training and experience. If you can, try to find a course or programmes that work to develop both hard skills, while allowing you to gain industry experience that will refine your soft skills.