It is truly amazing how many roles a project manager plays. From leadership to salesperson to technical manager, it really does take a full gamut of skills to complete a project on time and under budget. Following is a list of key skills for project managers to possess:
- Project management fundamentals. The “science” of project management, including scheduling, estimating, risk management, procurement, and communication strategies. If you don’t have this down, everything else will be a challenge. Many people are assigned the title of project manager, and their projects might generally go well, but those with the applicable training will weather the big storms and make the big decisions when they need to.
- Business savvy. Projects don’t exist in a vacuum. There is a sponsoring organization that thinks in terms of business, as oppose to project, concepts. The project manager must be well versed in things like net present value, accounting reports, and value calculation methods. Arguing the value of the project to an organization is often expected of a project manager.
- Technical know-how. Although we draw a distinction between the project manager and technical manager, some knowledge of the technical background required to complete the project is important to grasp by the project manager. For small projects, these two people might be the same. Indeed, trends suggest that most certified project managers are actually technical people with a project management background.
- Communication skills. There are external stakeholders whose expectations must be managed. There are project sponsors who need to know the progress, and project team members who need to work together. Communication is central to a successful project. That’s why part of the “science” of project management (see above, #1) is to develop a strong communication plan and stick to it.
- Leadership. Applying project management principles to managing a project is great, and I applaud you for getting that far. But truly leading a project team to success is the cream of the project management crop. The measure of a true leader is the number of people that follow them. Your project team members probably follow you because they needed the job (or whatever it was…). If you can turn them into enthusiatic participants who want to see the project succeed, you will do well. Fortunately, it is a myth that motivating people equals leadership. One of the most important aspects of leadership is built in to a project – that is, providing a vision of the end product that people can aspire to. For more on that, look up law #13 from John Maxwell’s classic 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. While you’re at it, read the whole book.
Are you thinking there’s no chance you can possess all of these skills? Not to worry, I can assure you nobody does. In fact, I’ve seen million dollar projects (many of them, actually) that are managed by people who don’t possess many of these skills at all. If you choose your strengths and excel at them, while beholding your weaknesses, you will probably succeed.
Let me know if you have anything to add (or subtract, or change!) in the comments below.