What is Project Management?
Project management brings together a set of tools and techniques performed by people to describe, organize, and monitor the work of project activities.
Project managers are the people responsible for managing the project processes and applying the tools and techniques used to carry out the project activities. All projects are composed of processes, even if they employ a haphazard approach. There are many advantages to organizing projects and teams around the project management processes endorsed by PMI.
According to the PMBOKÃ‚Â® Guide, project management involves applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques during the course of the project to accomplish the project's objective. It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that project management techniques are applied and followed.
Project management is a process that includes initiating a new project, planning, putting the project plan into action, and measuring progress and performance. It involves identifying the project requirements, establishing project objectives, balancing constraints, and taking the needs and expectations of the key stakeholders into consideration. Planning is one of the most important functions you'll perform during the course of a project. It sets the standard for the remainder of the project's life and is used to track future project performance.
Necessary skills that every Project Manager should have
Below are the necessary skills that every PM should have
1. Communication Skills
One of the single most important characteristics of a first-rate project manager is excellent communication skills. Written and oral communications are the backbone of all successful projects. Many forms of communication will exist during the life of your project. As the creator or manager of most of the project communication (project documents, meeting updates, status reports, and so on), it's your job to ensure that the information is explicit, clear, and complete so that your audience will have no trouble understanding what has been communicated. Once the information has been distributed, it is the responsibility of the person receiving the information to make sure they understand it.
2. Organizational and Planning Skills
Organizational and planning skills are closely related and probably the most important skills, after communication skills, a project manager can possess. Organization takes on many forms. As project manager, you'll have project documentation, requirements information, memos, project reports, personnel records, vendor quotes, contracts, and much more to track and be able to locate at a moment's notice. You will also have to organize meetings, put together teams, and perhaps manage and organize media-release schedules, depending on your project. Time management skills are closely related to organizational skills. It's difficult to stay organized without an understanding of how you're managing your time. I recommend you attend a time management class if you've never been to one. They have some great tips and techniques to help you prioritize problems and interruptions, prioritize your day, and manage your time.
3. Budgeting Skills
Project managers establish and manage budgets and therefore need some knowledge of finance and accounting principles. Especially important in this skill area is the ability to perform cost estimates for project budgeting. Different methods are available to determine the project costs. They range from estimating individual activities and rolling the estimates up to estimating the project's cost in one big chunk. I'll discuss these methods more fully in later chapters. After a budget is determined, you can start spending. This sounds more exciting than it actually is. Reading and understanding vendor quotes, preparing or overseeing purchase orders, and reconciling invoices are budgeting skills that the project manager will use on most projects. These costs will be linked back to project activities and expense items in the project's budget.
4. Conflict Management Skills
Conflict management involves solving problems. Problem solving is really a twofold process. First, you must define the problem by separating the causes from the symptoms. Often when defining problems, you end up just describing the symptoms instead of really getting to the heart of what's causing the problem. To avoid that, ask yourself questions like "Is it an internal or external problem? Is it a technical problem? Are there interpersonal problems between team members? Is it managerial? What are the potential impacts or consequences?"
These kinds of questions will help you get to the cause of the problem.
Next, after you have defined the problem, you have some decisions to make. It will take a little time to examine and analyze the problem, the situation causing it, and the alternatives available. After this analysis, the project manager will determine the best course of action to take and implement the decision. The timing of the decision is often as important as the decision itself. If you make a good decision but implement it too late, it might turn into a bad decision.
5. Negotiation and Influencing Skills
Effective problem solving requires negotiation and influencing skills. We all utilize negotiation skills in one form or another every day. For example, on a nightly basis I am asked, "Honey, what do you want for dinner?" Then the negotiations begin, and the fried chicken versus swordfish discussion commences. Simply put, negotiating is working with others to come to an agreement.
Negotiation on projects is necessary in almost every area of the project, from scope definition to budgets, contracts, resource assignments, and more. This might involve one-on-one negotiation or with teams of people, and it can occur many times throughout the project.
Influencing is convincing the other party that swordfish is a better choice than fried chicken, even if fried chicken is what they want. It's also the ability to get things done through others. Influencing requires an understanding of the formal and informal structure of all the organizations involved in the project. Power and politics are techniques used to influence people to perform. Power is the ability to get people to do things they wouldn't do otherwise. It's also the ability to change minds and the course of events and to influence outcomes.
6. Leadership Skills
Leaders and managers are not synonymous terms. Leaders impart vision, gain consensus for strategic goals, establish direction, and inspire and motivate others. Managers focus on results and are concerned with getting the job done according to the requirements.
Even though leaders and managers are not the same, project managers must exhibit the characteristics of both during different times on the project. Understanding when to switch from leadership to management and then back again is a finely tuned and necessary talent.
7. Team-Building and Motivating Skills
Project managers will rely heavily on team-building and motivational skills. Teams are often formed with people from different parts of the organization. These people might or might not have worked together before, so some component of team-building groundwork might involve the project manager. The project manager will set the tone for the project team and will help the team member's work through the various stages of team development to become fully functional. Motivating the team, especially during long projects or when experiencing a lot of bumps along the way, is another important role the Project manager fulfills during the course of the project.
An interesting caveat to the team-building role is that project managers many times are responsible for motivating team members who are not their direct reports. This has its own set of challenges and dilemmas. One way to help this situation is to ask the functional manager to allow you to participate in your project team members' performance reviews. Use the negotiation and influencing skills I talked about earlier to make sure you're part of this process.
Without the above required skills managing a project is almost not possible. So, every individual who wants to become a successful Project Manager should master the above all skills.