A March 2021 report listed Project Management as the most in-demand tech skill (even ahead of software development and product management). Project Management sets the pace for your projects and gives them direction by streamlining project activities, improving performance, and reducing risks.
In our earlier blog on 8 Key Project Management Skills for a Growing Business, we discussed the importance of Project Management and the critical Project Management skills needed in a growing business. Learning these skills is worth investing your time, and developing these skills to become a successful project manager is more than possible. This blog discusses how to develop crucial project management skills into your project management strengths.
Developing the 8 Key Project Management Skills
Integrating leadership skills with Project Management helps project managers become results oriented and influential leaders. However, leadership is a difficult skill to learn and can only be developed after prolonged practical experience in a role. A study by the Center for Creative Leadership suggested that 38% to 50% of new leaders fail within the first 18 months. Mastering leadership takes time, experience, consistent effort, and practice.
Leadership is the ability to create a shared vision that the people accept or adopt as their own and are convinced to fulfill it. As per Bennis (1985), although leadership has many styles and methods, it ultimately boils down to these major processes – establishing direction, aligning people, inspiring, and motivating.
Begin by identifying the core areas that define good leadership and work to improve them. According to Kouzes and Posner, the key focus areas for leaders are:
- Model the Way – Find your values and align your actions
- Inspire a Shared Vision – Enlist others in a vision of future
- Challenge the Process – Find opportunities and take risks
- Enable others to Act – Share power and foster collaboration
- Encourage the Heart – Recognize and celebrate values/victories
Apply these skills to your projects to improve your leadership as well as Project Management skills.
Communication is a crucial Project Management skill that makes or breaks a project. As suggested by Gina Abudi in her 2013 paper, poor communication hurts the success of the project. Focus on two steps for successful project communication:
- Assess the stakeholder and project needs, and come up with a communication strategy
- Based on the communication strategy, formulate the communication plan
Put a communication plan in place which addresses the following questions:
- What to communicate?
- Who to communicate with?
- How often must that information be shared?
- By what means will information be shared?
Practice the 5Cs of Communication that it should be: Correct, Concise, Clear Purpose, Coherent, and Controlled.
3. Conflict Management
As per the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), there are five common conflict management styles that you must learn. Each strategy has its pros and cons, and there is no wrong or right way to handle conflict. Understanding what works best in which situation helps you achieve effective conflict resolution.
- Competing: Highly assertive and uncooperative – this conflict management style is the go-to for those willing to pursue their concerns at others’ expense. Use this style when the outcome is more important than the relationship.
- Accommodating: Unassertive and cooperative – the complete opposite of competing. Accommodating is often associated with selfless generosity or yielding to others’ points of view. This approach is perfect for a situation when preserving the relationship is more important than the outcome.
- Avoiding: Unassertive and uncooperative – avoiding is diplomatically sidestepping or removing yourself from a difficult situation. It is the preferred conflict management style when you care little about the outcome and want to postpone dealing with the issue.
- Collaborating: the complete opposite of avoiding – it is assertive and cooperative. It focuses on finding a solution that will meet the needs of all parties. Although the best solution for producing long-term results, this is often the most challenging and time-consuming option. Use when both the relationship and outcome are of value.
- Compromising: Moderately assertive and moderately cooperative- it aims to find a mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties in the conflict. Compromising helps the team to find a middle ground without wasting much time. Use this when the outcome is not crucial.
4. Risk Management
Each project comes with its own set of potential risks. Foreseeing and planning to deal with those risks is a crucial skill that helps teams deal with uncertainties. Risk management is a multi-step process including:
- Identifying the Risk: Brainstorm with your team, colleagues, or stakeholders or dig through past project reports to gather the necessary information to identify and resolve the risks. Think of all the things that can go wrong, and note them down. Now your list of potential risks is ready.
- Analyzing the Risk: Once you have identified and documented all the risks, analyze each risk’s likelihood of occurrence and impact and assign priority. A high probability and high impact risk have the highest priority. Then, come up with a response plan to address the risk.
- Assigning an Owner to the Risk: Although an optional step, it is usually recommended. Assign an owner for your risk early on. Make sure every risk has a person responsible for it who will monitor the risk and develop a mitigation plan.
- Monitoring: Risk monitoring is a collaborative activity. Each risk “owner” must monitor their risk continually. The risk management plan should be a living document that your team uses to stay on track. Any change in the likelihood of risk must immediately be updated.
- Responding: If and when the risk becomes a reality comes the time to respond. With your risk register and risk management plan in place, you should have a great contingency plan to deal with risks.
Risk management isn’t about preventing risks but about having a plan so you don’t get blindsided.
5. Task Management
Task management helps you organize your work to complete tasks on time and with high quality. Different positions require different task management skills. For instance, a manager should focus on effective prioritization, communication, and delegation. In contrast, individual contributors may use their time-tracking and workload management skills to complete their tasks on time.
The following tips can help you improve your task management skills:
- Create an Effective Schedule: List down all your tasks and schedule them on the available time slots on your calendar. Break down your goals into weekly and daily plans to make steady progress.
- Eat that Frog: Complete time-consuming or complex tasks before moving on to easier ones. While creating your schedule, put the items you need more motivation to complete at the top of your to-do list. The guiding principle behind this is – “If it is your job to eat a frog, it is best to do it first thing in the morning.”
- Pomodoro Method: Break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. Each interval is referred to as a Pomodoro. After about four pomodoros, take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. Following the Pomodoro Technique ensures you remain on task and gives you plenty of breaks to relax your brain.
- Eisenhower Method: Categorize tasks on a priority matrix with urgency and priority as the axes. With this structure, important tasks that need to be completed immediately should be placed high on both priority and urgency. In contrast, important work required only after a while should be placed high on priority but low on urgency. Delegate whatever is urgent but less important.
- Use the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): Break your tasks into smaller pieces to gain momentum and eliminate procrastination and stress. To complete a challenging task on time and deliver the best results without being overwhelmed, it’s essential to outline the optimal order.
6. People Management
Effective leadership revolves around inspiring, persuading, and encouraging others. A successful project manager must have the ability to influence others. Many best practices have emerged to help project managers influence teams without authority. Some of them are:
- The most basic persuader of all is self-interest. Align your requests with the team member’s self-interest, and they are sure to comply.
- Make your arguments structured, concise, and clear. The more a person is confused, the less they will be influenced.
- Use your experience and Subject Matter Expertise to influence your team.
7. Cost Management
The foundation of effective cost management is practice. Your estimations will get better with the projects you plan and deliver. Use this step-by-step approach:
- Use resource planning to identify, forecast, and allocate various resources to the projects at the right time and cost.
- Consult the records of successful projects and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to determine the resources required to complete the project.
- Estimate the cost using one of the four cost-estimating methods, such as:
- Analogous estimating
- Parametric estimating
- Three-point estimating
- Bottom-up estimating
- Cost control by tracking actual vs. expected costs and reducing costs if they exceed the budget.
8. Resource Management
There are several techniques available for resource management. These include the following:
- Allocation: This lets you efficiently use available resources to get the most out of them and helps keep projects on time and within budget.
- Leveling: This type of resource management lets you use idle resources effectively. Use leveling if you have a project that demands more resources than are available and requires adjusting deadlines.
- Forecasting: Fully understand the project’s scope and then identify the resources available to use now and those required in the future.
Effective project managers wear many hats; they need to be leaders, communicators, people managers, great planners, and much more. These skills will help you become a better project manager and set you on the path to success. At iQuasar, our well-defined philosophy and specially designed project canvas template are a one-stop solution for all your project management needs! You can trust us to take the lead in efficiently conceptualizing and executing projects. Our experienced team of professionals is here to lend the expertise you would require at every step along the way.