7 Essential Skills for Project Teams
There’s a big focus on the skills that apply to individual project managers and contributors. But what about your project team as a whole? Your team needs to possess some essential skills in order to ensure their productivity, sanity, and the successful delivery of projects.
Project teams are generally comprised of a variety of specialists such as developers, programmers, engineers, analysts, QA specialists and technical writers—all of whom have different skills and strengths. At the same time, there are underlying team-wide skills that distinguish high-performing project teams from all others.
Here are seven essential skills that your team needs to be a top-performer.
1. Basic project management
No longer can a successful project team have just a project management professional responsible for the welfare of a project. These days, every team member has to have a basic level of project management skills in order to help contribute to the overall direction of the project. With the days of Gantt charts behind us, and more companies using cloud-based project management software (such as LiquidPlanner), all team members have better access to all of the components of the project.
Distributing access to a cloud-based project management platform to team members requires participating team members to have some or all of the following skills:
- Task management
- Basic analytics
Basic analytics is going to be an emerging skill for project teams, as more cloud-based project management software adds analytics tools that open up the wealth of project data they hold. All project team members need the skills to use this new class of project management feature set to better improve processes and their delivery cycle.
Along with basic project management skills, project teams standardized on a cloud-based project management platform need to have some level of collaboration skills.
I split collaboration skills into two categories:
- Interpersonal. This includes team communications, document reviews, code reviews, and related interactions about project deliverables.
- Technology/online collaboration. This includes user skills with cloud-based and desktop collaboration, project management, and other standard productivity applications including document sharing.
2. Problem solving
You can tell a lot about a project team by how the team members solve the major and minor technology and business-related problems that occur—often on a daily basis. You might expect that Agile development and DevOps teams have institutionalized troubleshooting in development and engineering; but teams still need to treat problem solving as a skill that needs to be continuously refined, especially as technologies evolve.
3. Conflict resolution
Some people lump conflict-resolution under collaboration; I see it as a skill unto itself. When you gather a large group of dedicated and intelligent people in a room with a whiteboard to discuss a business or technical issue that can potentially impact a launch of new service or product, you will invariably get some flurry of internal conflict. Effective conflict-resolution skills are at the heart of a truly collaborative team—especially when big egos are on the line.
4. Transformative conversation
I came across the term transformative conversation from a recent Michael Hyatt podcast. Hyatt is a leadership expert and speaker and his concept of transformative conversation as a skill can help a project team be more creative and get buy-in from all team members.
While getting a bunch of smart people in a room with a whiteboard can lead to conflicting views, it’s also the proving ground for transformative conversations. All jokes aside about technical teams and social skills, conversations can be important to the progress of any project.
5. Technical documentation
Writing technical documentation can be a neglected task but a valuable skill for project teams. Too often documentation isn’t part of the team’s workflow—but it should be. Whether or not a project team has a staff or contract technical writer assigned to its project, documentation is an important skill for a project team. I define documentation skills to include:
- Application Programming Interface (API) documentation
- User Interface (UI) guidelines
- Process documentation
- Operations documentation
- Troubleshooting documentation.
It’s also important to note that documentation doesn’t necessarily need to take place in traditional-type documents. In fact, today’s project teams are often better served by wikis, enterprise social tools and online project management tools. What matters is that the documentation is centralized, online, secure and auditable, and searchable by the team and by management.
A new technical documentation methodology called DocOps might even transform documentation from an irksome task to a standard element of the process.
6. Risk management
Risk management isn’t just for project managers anymore. It’s actually a skill that needs to be distributed among the project’s team members. This is especially important with team members with cross-functional specialties where there’s no skilled oversight of the project tasks.
Cloud-based project management tools such as LiquidPlanner help you capture potential risks and their potential solutions by allocating work, estimating effort and then rolling every task up to the project plan at large. The key to distributing risk management across a project team is that the team members are accountable and can anticipate and then explain the potential risks in their project tasks for wider audiences.
7. Customer and client management
While there are less enlightened organizations that still believe the project manager should be the first and only contact with clients, too often your clients (internal or external) will do what they can to bypass project managers and speak to the team member who is doing the actual work. Each team member should have basic customer/client management skills to work directly with clients and answer any of their questions about their portion of the project.
Essential project management skills for project teams drive project and team success through acquiring a well-rounded set of proficiencies. No team can be a disparate group of individual specialists and reach its full potential. The good news here is that you’re offered a vast field of opportunity for learning and growing over the life of your career.
Which of these skills has made a positive impact on your project team?
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