What Project Management Skills do I need to become a Project Manager?
There are certain Project Management skills you’ll need to possess (or learn) to become an effective Project Manager. These may sound daunting, but if it’s a path you want to pursue then don’t be put off, as there are ways to develop these if you don’t have them already. Check out my other post on How to Become a Project Manager.
Bottom line is if you’ve ever organised a wedding, moved house, organised a family holiday, then effectively, you’ll be familiar with what’s involved in managing a small project and will have practised a few project management skills already.
10 Project Management Skills For Perfect Project Manager
- People-management – a Project Manager needs to be able to deal with and motivate individuals from cross-functional teams who don’t normally work together, and are often geographically dispersed. Add to the mix the fact that each individual is likely to have a different line manager (i.e. not the Project Manager), and a different set of priorities (i.e. their day-to-day job), and that means you need to be good at building a team and motivating people to work with you to achieve the project objectives.
- Comfortable with change and risks – a project will usually bring some element of change to an organisation (new process, updated version, new building), and that’s what you’ll be managing. Change brings risks, and therefore you’ll need to be comfortable around both.
- Effective Communicator – a Project Manager will have multiple stakeholders within an organisation (and possibly externally, depending on the project) who will need to be kept updated on project progress. What they need, and how often it is communicated is likely to have been agreed as part of a Communication Plan / Strategy, but there will also be risks / issues which arise often, and the PM will need to keep certain stakeholders updated on these also. The project manager will also need to ensure that communication with relevant teams is maintained throughout the issue resolution
- Well organised – a Project will normally involve multiple documents which will need constantly managed and version-controlled, with multiple streams of work running at the same time. Add to that the emails, meetings, presentations, training, reviews, etc which can form part of a project and need tracked, then a Project Manager needs to be well organised, and have good time-management skills
- Planning – projects do tend to have multiple plans involved, so you’ll need to be comfortable putting a plan together, and interpreting one. As Project Manager, the Project Plan will fall under your remit, and other examples are stage plans, team plans, exception plans, along with plans for hand over and benefits review. In preparing these, you’ll almost always involve team members to advise on timescales and steps involved, but you’ll need to be comfortable with pulling it all together.
- Negotiation – in managing a project, you’ll often be trying to involve parties whose priorities do not match yours, and you’ll need to get them on side to work with you. You’re normally also not their line manager, and you’ll often need to get them on side also
- Delegate effectively – I’ve said this within quite a few of the other points, but thought it deserved it’s own point to emphasise. If you’re coming into Project Management from another technical / speciality area of an organisation, it can be tempting to focus on what you know and are comfortable with. But you have to keep focused on the bigger picture. Remember, the Project Manager’s job is not to do the work, but to manage the people who are better at it than you to ensure it is done.
- Good grasp of industry principles (e.g. software / hardware platforms if in IT industry; legal frameworks if law / HR-focused). Note this does not mean that you need to be proficient in all the technical aspects of any project, but a good grasp of the principles will certainly help. Good technical staff do not necessarily make good Project Managers. For any technical issues which arise there will be team members who will know more than you ever could about the issue and how to resolve it. The PM’s job is not necessarily to “do”, but to “manage”. Notice also that this is further down the list – in theory, a Project Manager should be able to take the same principles used in one project, and apply to a project in a completely different industry, but it does speed up the process if you have an understanding of the processes involved, even from the perspective of garnering respect from the teams you’ll need to manage.
- Financial / budgeting ability – you’ll need to be comfortable with setting up and managing a budget, as the Project Manager often needs to keep the project on target in terms of cost. To do that it’s likely you’ll need to be involved in estimating, timesheets, gathering quotes, invoicing, and all other financial aspects of the project, and you’ll need to track these and report actual against budget.
- Problem solver – problems (or issues) will arise daily which may present a risk to your project’s timeline, so you need to be able to deal effectively with these. Issues may arise from a number of sources, including technical, internal, external, staffing, communication, etc. It may have been one which has already been identified in the project Risk Register, and therefore will have some sort of resolution outlined, but if not you’ll need to push it to resolution. Remember, it’s not the PM’s job to actually solve the problem or resolve the issue, but to manage it through to resolution.