Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

The Most Important Project Management Skill

Posted by iammarchhare on 30 March 2009

The often overlooked skill that every PM needs

What skill is essential for project managers?  Is it EVM?  Is it using MS Project?  Is it creating a WBS?  No, it is none of these.

Many people have a misconception of what a project manager does.  Unfortunately, many of these may themselves be project managers.  If you believe that playing with spreadsheets and MS Project schedules are all that is required, then it is time to sit up and take notice.  If your idea of project management is running around with a notepad checking up on people’s tasks every couple of hours, then perhaps you need to step back and give that some reconsideration.

A project manager is responsible for quite a few things.  Since many came up through the technical ranks, some of these activities may be new when promoted to a project lead or project manager.  Let’s look at a few of the things a project manager is responsible for:

1. The completion of the product the project was intended to produce.  In other words, you must meet the needs and expectations of the user.  In order to do this, you must be able to communicate and build a solid understanding with the user and sponsor.

2. The completion of the project on time, on budget and in scope.  In order to do this, you must be able to talk to the subject matter experts (SMEs), understand their estimates and concerns.  You must be able to tell the user what is and is not in scope for the project.  You must be able to communicate the schedule and the budget to the sponsor.  You must be able to influence resource managers to give up resources for your project.

3. The tracking and communicating of changes throughout the life of the project.  You will likely have to negotiate and renegotiate scope throughout the life of the project.

4. Motivating the team to complete the project.  You must do this, even though in many organizations the team does not report to you.  You must sell them on the project and motivate them to put out a quality product.

5. Clearing obstacles to getting work done.  This can be anything from people who interfere with the team’s work to access to a particular piece of equipment.

6. Ensure that risks and issues are dealt with in an effective and timely manner.

I could go on, but I think this is sufficient to point out some skills that aren’t necessarily found in a book on PM: Communication, ability to influence, negotiation, ability to motivate, sales, obstacle removal and resolution of risks and issues.

What do these have in common?

A project manager is put in charge of a project to help ensure the success of a project.  How do you ensure the success of anything?  Don’t you influence people, motivate people, lead people, collect and organize resources?  If so, you are managing them.

Yes, the one skill that is often overlooked in project management, believe it or not, is management.  You, not the resource manager, have to influence and motivate the team.  You, not the sponsor, have to lead the team.  You have to manage them.  Fortunately, people usually do want to do a good job, and that makes the job easier.  Yet, too many times PMs can get in their own way and affect how the team performs if they are not conscious of their leadership role on the team.

Manage – To direct the affairs or interests of.  To succeed in accomplishing or achieving, especially with difficulty.

It is time to put the “management” aspect back into project management.

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5 Responses to “The Most Important Project Management Skill”

  1. […] you have read my post about The Most Important Project Management Skill, then you realize, IT or not, a project manager must first of all be a good manager.  Often, the […]

  2. […] right now, “they are a necessary evil.”  Really?  Are you a “manager” (yes, project managers are managers)?  Then, go look in the mirror!  Say out loud, “My position is a necessary […]

  3. […] is now an Appendix G on People Skills.  You know, the soft skills I’ve been harping on.  And no, I don’t recall being told that this was a change in the PMBOK previously, so I pat […]

  4. […] I’ve spent a lot of time in previous posts showing how project management is primarily about management, that soft skills count the most and how being a PM is much more than doing earned value […]

  5. […] first 2 he lists pretty much show that an IT PM’s job is to bridge people and technology.  While people skills are important, they certainly aren’t the only skills you need.  Likewise, a PM in a technical position needs […]

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