According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), project management is defined as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” It is essentially managing a project through to completion through careful coordination with your team. Project management sounds easy, right? Tell your team what needs to happen and take care of your work while they handle theirs.
But what happens when a team member does not understand what needs to be done? What about when someone gets sick, or an important element of the project changes? Project management is tough. It can be nerve-wracking and stressful, especially when you have tight deadlines. The good news is that as long as you have the skills you need, you can streamline your pipeline, achieve deliverables, and prevent failures.
This blog post describes some of the most important project management skills and how each of them can keep your work projects on track. By developing some or all of these project management skills, you become a stronger, more competent employee and leader, which in turn can help you advance in your career.
Planning Is Your First Priority
Planning is a core skill for project managers. Planning can encompass a multitude of items, including:
- Prioritizing projects
- Producing deliverables on time
- Handling sick or demotivated team members
- Explaining processes to new members of the team
In essence, planning really is everything.
How Planning Helps Prevent Failure
You just got a large project that is due next week. You procrastinate for a couple of days handling less important tasks. Three days before the project is due, you assign it to team members, just to find out one member is sick, another is out of the office, and the third is in the hospital. Lack of planning is exactly what leads to this situation.
As a project manager, you want to handle everything from the macro to the micro; that is, from the overall scope of the project to the smallest details. The macro-tasks include team management, time estimates on projects, and meetings with team members to discuss new projects and set deadlines. And, of course, planning for something to go wrong.
The micro-tasks are the smaller details that encompass how you are going to make your day a great one. Handling your daily to-do list, making sure priority tasks get completed, and avoiding distractions are all at the micro level.
Communication Must Remain at a Constant
Did you know that one-third of all projects fail due to a lack of communication? That being said, strong communication skills can prevent projects from failing.
Here is an example:
Your project is good to go. Your team members have excelled, managing to complete all of their tasks far sooner than you expected. But before you get a chance to celebrate, disaster strikes! You just found out that the graphic designer, content manager, and sales manager on your team did not receive your email regarding one of the most important aspects of the project. It is going to take them a month to get the procedures in place. But the project is due in a couple of days. What do you do now?
Good Communication Practices
When it comes to communicating with your team, there are countless ways to stay ahead of the game. Often, micromanaging team members only elevates stress; however, you may need to find the communication style that works best for you.
The best thing you can do is organize weekly team meetings or singular five-minute calls with each individual on your team to ensure that they are coping with their workload. If you notice that someone has not replied to a request for the update you sent about an important task, do not assume anything! Email them, call them, or stop by their desk. Do what you need to do to ensure that they reply and get what they need to finish their task.
Look for Automation Using Creativity
Creativity is another skill that is underappreciated by project managers. In life, almost everything can be simplified. With some of the newest Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, such as Zendesk, Slack, and Trello, automation is probably your best friend as a project manager.
Why is this? Because automation tools help you save time. Having a good automation system in place is always a great idea. Here are some of the tasks that can be automated to free up some of your busy workday:
- Automatically assign tasks based on specific emails you receive
- Automate your social media posts
- Send weekly reminders to team members about tasks that they need to complete in the following week based on their to-do list
Never Stop Developing Yourself
These skills may be basic, but they are the foundational skills a project manager must possess to be successful. Regardless of whether you are a veteran in your field, or you just graduated from college, it is important to constantly invest in self-development. After all, processes change, new customer relationship management (CRM) software is released, and innovative productivity hacks are discovered.
If you want to become a project manager or simply brush up on your project management skills, consider pursuing a PMP certification. Honing your project management skills, via a certification or work experience, can help you stand out as a candidate in your job search, become a more well-rounded professional, and advance in your career.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).