January 18, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

8 Skills Needed On The Project Management Road To Success

By Linky van der Merwe

What Are The Project Management Skills Needed To Be Successful?

Find a more current version of this article: 10 Skills for your Project Management Path To Success

Are you cut out to be a project manager? I landed in the project management profession by accident, but I stayed there on purpose. It is because I love what I do and I suppose my natural strengths and skills are a good match for doing project management. Whether you have planned to became a Project Manager or whether it happened by accident, it is important to know what your strengths and skills are and if they match the skills needed to be a successful project manager.

Project managers need both leadership and management skills, with a knack for problem solving.

Project managers are there to plan and manage the work – NOT to do it!

So what is the Project Management Skills Set you need to be a successful project manager? Eight key skills needed for project management are explained here (but the list is by no means complete). 

1.   Be a Leader and a Manager

Leaders share and communicate a common vision (future state or end goal); they gain agreement and establish the future direction. They motivate others. Managers are results driven and focus on getting work done against agreed requirements. A good project manager will constantly switch from a leader to a manager as situations require.

2.   Be a Team Builder and a Team Leader

Projects are often cross-functional in that they use people who may not have worked together before. It is up to the project manager to set the atmosphere of the team, and to lead them through the various team development phases to the point where they perform as a team.

3.    Be an Excellent Communicator

Being a communicator means recognising that it’s a two-way street. Information comes into the project and information goes out of the project. All communications on your project should be clear and complete.

As a project manager you will have to deal with both written and oral communications. Some examples are documents, meetings, reviews, reports, and assessments. A good mental guideline is “who needs this information, who gathers and delivers it, when or how often do they need it, and in what form will I give it to them”.

4.   Be a Good Organizer

Let’s just think of the aspects you will need to organize; project filing including all documentation, contracts, e-mails, memo’s, reviews, meetings, specialist documents, requirements and specifications, reports, changes, issues, risks, etc.

It’s almost impossible to stay organized without having Time Management Skills – so add this to your list!

5.   Be a Competent and Consistent Planner

The skill of planning can’t be underestimated (and neither can estimating!). There are known and logical steps in creating plans. As a project manager you will certainly own the Project Plan, but it must be created with input from the team. Examples are Test Plans, Risk Management Plans, Hand-over Plans, Benefit Realisation Plans, etc. As long as you’re aware that planning should become second nature to you.

6.   Be a Problem Solver

Fortunately, this is a skill that can be learned.

Firstly, you need to identify the possible ’causes’ that lead to the problem ’symptom’. Now, causes can come from a variety of sources, some are: 

  • interpersonal problems
  • internal sources
  • external sources
  • technical sources
  • management sources
  • communication
  • opinions or perceptions

Having found the root causes, the next step is to analyze possible options and alternatives, and determine the best course of action to take in order to resolve the problem(s).

7.    Be a Negotiator and Influencer

Negotiation is working together with other people with the intention of coming to a joint agreement. And for all these you need to have some influencing skills. Influencing is getting events to happen by convincing the other person that your way is the better way – even if it’s not what they want. Influencing power is the ability to get people to do things they would not do otherwise.

8.   Set Up and Manage Budgets

At the heart of this is the skill of estimating – particularly cost estimates. Nearly always the project manager will need certain knowledge of financial techniques and systems along with accounting principles.

Part of the Project Plan will be something called the Cost Plan. This will show the planned cost against a time-scale. The PM will want to get involved in purchasing, quoting, reconciling invoices, time sheets, etc.

The project manager then needs to establish what has actually happened as opposed to what was planned and to forecast the expected final costs.

Well, this is only a summary of the main areas.

If you are new to project management, don’t be overwhelmed by all this – there are well understood methodologies, tools, guidelines, and procedures to help you on your way to developing the important life-skills of Project Management.

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