In the business world, where processes are becoming more technically sophisticated, lead times for product development are getting shorter, and work is becoming increasingly cross-functional, it’s no real surprise that demand for sound project management skills is on the rise, and not just from the dedicated project management team.
“The need for high caliber project management capability transcends sector and function,” says Heide Abelli, SVP of content product management at Skillsoft and adjunct professor at Boston College. “It is now a universal competency requirement, much like traditional business soft skills such as communication and collaboration.”
In recent years organizations have been replacing their traditional siloed structures with flatter, more flexible forms, and seeing project-based management as the method of choice for implementing business objectives, and for creating and sustaining competitive advantage. To effectively implement all but the simplest of changes, managers need to understand how they can manage their time and their team’s time, regardless of their principal role.
One of the most compelling reasons for understanding the basics of project management is to improve visibility across all ongoing work. This is particularly important when very clear goals and objectives need to be set, to ensure that goals are always top of the list.
“As a manager, you need to break through roadblocks and make sure that work is evenly distributed across your team,” says Samuel Leach, director of Samuel and Co. Trading. “With clear visibility into your team’s workload and an established process for how work gets done, a manager with project management skills can jump in when needed or move tasks around to guarantee success.”
There are project management tools available that can help with assigning tasks and measuring the performance of individuals by tracking their completed assignments. Enabling a manager to visualize a team’s productivity and identify opportunities to improve.
“When a project goes in a completely different direction, or a stakeholder changes their expectations at the last minute, deadlines shift, resources run dry, and chaos ensues. It is the team’s agility with that project that will determine how quickly and efficiently you can recover from the impact of these changes,” says Jackson.
Managers with project management skills are often able to draw stakeholders with sometimes competing interests into a focused cooperation. They are adept at using emotional intelligence, negotiation, and decision-making skills, and they know when to look at the big picture and when to focus on detail.
Project management skills can improve risk analysis assessment and can help a manager to spot red flags and respond to unplanned challenges during the planning or execution of a project, thereby avoiding a potentially damaging financial impact.
In spite of the widespread recognition that high caliber project management is now a vital business skill, less than half of all organizations have a formal process for developing project management competency. Most managers acquire project management skills in a somewhat ad hoc manner, gaining some knowledge and limited competency as a result of project failure, or by fumbling along from one project crisis to the next.
“This is disappointing given that in today’s challenging business context, project management is emerging as a technique that can provide a significant competitive edge in the hands of the manager,” says Abelli. “There is an established body of knowledge and methodologies for effective project management. Managers need to be effectively trained in project management so they can build critical competencies for successful project delivery.”
However, it isn’t just managers and team leaders who can benefit from acquiring some basic project management training. Colin Adams, director of corporate training company Henley Training, believes that the basic principles of project management can help everyone in their day-to-day work, making them a valuable member of your company and potentially helping them up the career ladder.
He says: “Project management teaches you organizational, planning and communication skills that you can transfer to any task or job role. The basics of project management involve understanding the initiation, completion, and handover stages of the project, and these principles can help you keep track of your workload.
“Whatever task you are setting out to do, having a project management mindset will teach you how to plan what you want the outcome to be, through to how you will execute it.”
A project manager will also be accountable for presenting the outcomes of the project, which might be in front of the rest of the team, board members, or other stakeholders. “Having to articulate your ideas to an audience can seem daunting, but getting to grips with this particular aspect of project management can be rewarding and confidence-boosting,” adds Adams.
Not every project requires a dedicated project manager. As an individual’s capabilities to manage both small and large projects increase, they may be given responsibility for special projects requiring different expertise.
These are skills that can enhance an individual’s career and promotional prospects at all levels of employment. In many roles, evidence of personal development can be pivotal to career progression and improved earning potential. Studies have shown show that on average, project managers with Project Management Professional (PMP) certification earn 20% more than those without.
There are plenty of online courses that can provide a basic introduction to project management; however, many experts insist that the best way to learn is in a practical setting. “Finding a workshop, or facilitating one at work, can help you put these skills into practice right from the start,” says Adams. “There’s only so much you can learn from studying theoretical concepts, but a combination of theory and hands-on training will help you consolidate your learning and enhance your skills more effectively.”
Whether you’re already using project management techniques or looking to build and apply them to your own role, LiquidPlanner can help you feel more confident in the role of Project Manager.
Alison Coleman is a freelance journalist and editor, with 24 years experience, founder of Coleman Media, and a Forbes contributor. She covers stories on all areas of business for national and international online and print publications. Follow her on Twitter @alisonbcoleman or check out her latest work at www.alisoncoleman.co.uk.