Project Management Skills

What are project management skills? Here you will find a definition, examples, and a good project manager skills list needed for a job interview, resume, at work and business.

Nowadays the most popular are IT project managers, but PM is an important profession in many other areas such as engineering, construction,  production of new and innovative products and much more.

Project management skills list. Definition and examples.

What are project management skills?

PM skills are a range of abilities and qualities that allow an effective project manager to communicate, manage, and lead the projects to a successful end.

To be a good project manager, you need appropriate knowledge, tools, skills, and effective techniques that will help you to achieve the project goals.

Project management skills list:

  • Communication skillsThe good project manager not only has excellent communication skills but also is able to create an environment in which everyone can communicate effectively.
  • Analytical thinking is a crucial quality in the project management skills list. It includes a methodical approach to thinking and the skill to break down complex problems into single components.
  • Leadership qualities. Project managers should be good leaders. They have to build trust with key parties involved in the projects and have to lead them to a success.
  • Organizational skills
  • Problem-solving and conflict resolution skills.
  • Knowledge of methodologies – Waterfall, Iterative, Agile.
  • Ability to manage many different tasks at the same time (multitasking).
  • Basic technical knowledge. Every project manager has to know at least same basic software for PM (such as Scheduling systems, Ticketing systems, Software for diagrams, Presentation software, and more. )
  • Knowledge of the business area he is involved in.
  • Team building skills. These skills are also basic project management skills. An effective project manager has to know how to motivate and how to make a team of the people involved in a project.
  • То inspire trust and respect.
  • Detailed oriented but with the ability to see the full picture and the company strategy and goals.
  • Negotiation skills. As a project manager, you have to communicate with a wide range of clients. You have to be flexible and to negotiate with them to achieve the company’s goals.

Communication skills

Maybe the most important competencies for Project Managers are communications. The PM position in not only “above” the team but “in-between” the team and in control of the external environment.

So a clear and well-defined communication and information distribution is a must for successful projects.

Many people think that good communicator speaks kinda a lot, freely and he/she is the center of the meetings. Well, in some profession may be. But an effective Project Manager provides the correct amount of information, to correct persons in the correct moment and format.

  • So first of all one PM needs to understand who are the people involved in the project, who are the impacted stakeholders, and who will use the project outcomes.
  • After that, a good Project Manager should find a way of effective communication between all of them. It means each person has own requirements of information which need to be covered. It is a part of PM work to find the appropriate format of the information – reports, emails, documents, etc.
  • Another step is to monitor team communications, to check for information gaps, and to improve the process.
  • When it comes to informal communication PM should take care everyone to be involved in it and to find solutions if any team member does not participate in it.
  • In many projects, PM is a single point of contact between the team and external world.

Analytical Thinking

This is one of the most important projects management skills. You know that projects are quite complex, they have many tasks, dependencies, issues, etc.

So, one good Project Manager should see many things: full picture, general processes, small details, internal and external dependencies.

Also, PM should be able to split complex tasks into smaller pieces. There are many theories what smaller pieces means. But a good example is no tasks to be longer that one week and should be done by one team member.

One of the major parts of analytical thinking is the focus on the future. A good PM will try to investigate what kind of issues are coming and to resolve them in advance. A part of this are changes of external environment.

In short analytical thinking includes logic and experience applied on project’s internal structures, processes and future activities.

Leadership Skills

One of the key Project Management skill is Leadership. There are many reasons why.

  • In any project, there are problems and issues, and someone should stand and resolve them.
  • Someone needs to set the goals and lead the team to them.
  • The project manager is an escalation point within the team. And when a problem between team members arise he/she should step in.
  • When external impact occurs, each project manager should protect the team and the goals. It means, that sometimes PM stands their ground against management.
  •   A good PM is roll-model. He/she shows confidence, starts meeting on time, does their task before the dead-end.

How can you improve your project management leadership skills? It is not that easy and it is very individual. But a combination of confidence, knowledge, positive experience and training could help.

Organizational Skills

Every procedure and process in one project are PM responsibility so organizational project management skills is a must.

The main goal here is every team member and stakeholder to know what are his/her tasks, what is the status of the project, where dependencies exist, and etc.

In short, AS-IS information, TO-BE desired status and steps between them need to be organized and monitored by Project Manager.

This may include:

  • Organizing and facilitating meetings
  • Documentation storage
  • Process steps – from start to acceptance
  • Setting procedures, rules, etc
  • Setting Customers and Team members expectations
  • Guidance, planning, etc

Problem-solving skills

We ain’t living in a perfect world and problems will arise in any project. Of course, it is a good practice for a PM to identify them in advance but not always this is possible.

There is no perfect technique for resolving problems. It depends on engaged parties, situation, goals, etc.

Anyhow, there are some general project management techniques:

  • Avoiding such situation at any cost as separating the fighting people or remove/change something of the subject of the problems. This is a great technique if you need a short solution but poor in a long run.
  • Discussing areas of agreement rather and problematic areas. Once again, short term solution but sometimes it is needed.
  • Search for compromise in which both parties negotiate and sanctify something. Better technique but once again not best. People will remember that they are pushed to sacrifice something.
  • Project Manager takes the decision. Plain and simple and somebody from the team will not like this. Anyhow in the end of the project, it might work well.
  • The best practices are collaborating between team members in order to find the solution and searching for possible alternatives.

Methodology Knowledge

There are 3 major methodologies in Project Management – Waterfall, Iterative, and Agile.

Usually,  classical Project Managers are involved in Waterfall and Iterative methodologies. Agile methodologies have different roles as Scrum Masters, Product Owners, etc.

  • Waterfall – everything is planned at the beginning of the project. The phases are strictly defines, changes are very formal and everything should be documented. Deliveries are quite big.
  • Agile – there are many agile methodologies and they are all very flexible, adaptive, but planning is quite a challenge. The deliveries are small and often and early customer feedback is welcome.
  • Iterative is something in between with planning and partial delivery.

So, if you want to be good PM you will need knowledge, training, certificates in the Waterfall and Agile techniques.

Multitasking

A good project manager has more than one project so abilities for multitasking is rather important.

There is no certain methodology how to deal with many tasks but there are some tips.

  1. Write down and prioritize your tasks. Start from the most important or most difficult one.
  2. Focus on one task at a time.
  3. Do not check your mail regularly because it will distract you.
  4. Take a break between switching tasks.
  5.  Use To-Dos or other task management software.
  6. Review your performance at the end of every week.

Basic Technical Knowledge

Knowing different types of software is one of the basic project management skills.

Each PM should be able to use certain types of tools like:

Knowledge in the Business Area

This is an optional but still very useful skill. Based on PM methodologies one good Project Manager can lead a project with almost zero abilities in the business area.

But still, if a PM has skills in the business area, he/she can react faster and detect upcoming issues in advance. It shines in meeting and presentation when PM can turn the topics into the desired direction.

How to build Business Project Management skills?
Well, you need to spend time and efforts in it. If you do not have a background in the business area and this is your first project, you need to read a lot and to ask many questions.

Usually, there is enough information online and a fast course can be handy. But it is also true that nothing can replace real experience. So use your first /or even second/ project as a base, work harder, detect the issues and opportunities, and build at least moderate background.

Team-building skills

This is one of most difficult and trickiest area for any project manager. The problem is that for each project, a PM has different team members, with different motivation, backgrounds, and skills. Also, projects are time-limited and the team is resolved after it.

In any case, there are two major ways to build a team – formal and informal.

Formal methods as setting reward systems, ground rules for personal behavior and being a role-model.

Informal methods include soft skills, communication, trust, fun.

To Inspire Trust and Respect

Trust: It is not easy to build trust with a people you hardly know but it is very important for a successful project. In order to do so, you should be fair, calm, open-minded, treat the team with respect and equality.

No matter how tough situation is, do not manipulate the team for short-term profit.

Also, if someone is guilty it is you the Project Manager. Take the fault on you and do not allow team members to fight over it.

Respect:  Once again it is not easy in a time limit project. In order to have respect, you should protect the team from managers and customer, stand your ground when you have to, be prepared in advance for meeting and issues, don’t be afraid to argue with any team member if you have to.

Detailed-Orientation vs Full Picture

They are both important project management skills. A good PM should look upon his/her project from different perspectives.

Obviously, if you need to see your projects from the eyes of high-level managers, you need the full picture – road maps, company’s goals, future changes. Gull picture view provide the answer to the question “why” we are doing the project, what business needs we need to solve, what is the long term benefit.

If you need to see your projects from the eyes of QA or developer you need much more details. And sometimes small details can make or break your efforts. The detailed view can provide feedback for your risk management report, to-do planning, new opportunities, etc.

So both points of view are important and can provide useful feedback. Both of them should be used in order to achieve project success.

Negotiation skills

As a Project Manager, you are not directly trading with customers. Usually, contracts are signed in advance. But it does not mean that you will not negotiate.

You will need to and you will very very often. Scope and change requests, priorities and delivery dates, risk management and resources.

There are at least 4 major types of stakeholders you will need to negotiate with:

  • Customers – obviously. Not everything will go according to the plan. Here you should remember – a bad news early is a half of bad news. And it builds trust. Do not hide your issues until the bitter end, Search solutions as early as possible.
  • Team Leads – negotiation for resources. Those guys have many requests for resources. So inform them earlier and promote your projects. Let them know that they are important.
  • High Management – negotiation for time and cost. They need to know when something will be delivered and how much it will cost. In a case of any deviation – inform them and negotiate immediately.
  • Team Member – scope and tasks. Your own team member will ask for what is a scope, what are their tasks and priorities.

Also, do not forget that you will need to negotiate with other Project Manager.

 

About the Author Marin Valchev

Marin Valchev, PMP is an IT Project Manager with more than 10 years of experience. He implements cutting-edge technology in a wide-range of Financial and TELCO companies in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Marin shares his knowledge of software, analysis, project management and other business areas.

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