Everyone who has worked in a context where groups of people attempt to accomplish certain tasks has experienced the difference between a project that is well structured and managed and one that isn’t. No matter how good the team is, how great the idea is, how many resources the company invests in it, if there isn’t solid project management behind to pull the strings, the project can become overcomplicated, slower than expected, and sometimes even risks never being completed. It may seem like something you can do without but project management is a fundamental asset of a company and is a major skill which the HR department should look for when hiring people.
What does it mean to be a good project manager?
There are several skills a good project manager must possess. They range from leadership to communication, from risk management to time management, from problem solving to organisation and focus, from critical thinking to courage, from adaptability to empathy, from conflict resolution to negotiation. A project manager must be capable not only of understanding what has to be done in order to reach an objective but also compose the right team and motivate them. She must be able to change direction when a blocker occurs and to persevere when needed. She should be a problem solver but also be able to recognise her limits and ask for help when she is unable to reach a solution alone. These of course are all skills that one can learn, with courses or by practice. But a good project manager must be able to seamlessly combine all of these abilities. The result of this combination is something unique, which we can call the project management skill.
Why project management skills are essential for a company
Saying that project management is an essential skill for project managers is quite obvious. And of course, it’s vital for a company to hire people who possess it. But if we change our point of view, we realise that project management as a skill is in fact pivotal not only for project managers, but for anyone inside the company (and even – enlarging our perspective further – inside the entire society, as we are moving to what we can call a “project economy”).
At some point, everyone will find themselves in a situation managing a project, however small it may be. For this reason it is an essential quality for everyone who wants to perform their job in the best possible way. This is why more and more organisations require that everyone, not only appointed project managers, possess and/or learn these skills. And so project management training is being paradoxically offered more to non project managers than to project managers.
Project management skills for non project managers
Aside from the above mentioned skills, true project managers accomplish their work by learning how to incorporate new tools, processes and techniques in their work. This can be extremely useful also to professionals who, for any reason, are required to learn and apply project management skills and processes in their organisation. Anyone, from team leaders to product managers, from IT managers to analysts, can benefit from this kind of training and should undertake a similar path, because project management skills should be part of the cultural background of any serious professional.
Even if you’ve never had the opportunity of actively applying these capabilities, learning these skills will still benefit you greatly. For example, you may be a member of a project management team, so you are not requested to take decisions on your own. However, learning the terminology, the key techniques and the main problems a PM may face, applying key communication protocols and understanding roles and needs of other team members may help tremendously in the way you get things done.