by Arnold Chan
We live in a world that runs on projects. Everyday life projects may entail planning an office move, organising a major conference, developing a new product, or implementing a quality system. Indeed, managing and leading projects are essential life, managerial, and career skills.
There are five core skills in managing projects well. Every real project management professional or anyone who manages projects will benefit by mastering these skills to advance their careers.
1. Deploying Resources
Effective leaders must learn to be great at delegation. The challenge is some of the most competent people who become managers find it excruciating to delegate important tasks. Anyone can hand something off, but delegation requires a level of intent and finesse.
Effective delegators know how to describe the desired outcome accurately; communicate expectations; provide a possible path and give team members accountability for the results. Failing to grow as a delegator seriously restricts many managers who never rise above the level of their own personal productivity. Tools like work breakdown structure and competency matrix are enablers for the project manager.
2. Selecting the Right Team
Project managers need to know how to assemble the right people to get the job done. They have to maximize their potential and contributions with a very good understanding of team dynamics.
Most project managers use the RASCI chart to break out work needs, then build a position description and recruit the most qualified people for those positions. There is, however, another effective way to staff larger teams. It involves recruiting the smartest and most productive people and then getting them to play to their strengths.
3. Managing Upwards
The entire concept of managing one’s boss can be a tricky proposition. Some people naturally excel at this, but for the rest of us, it’s an important skill to cultivate.
The art of managing upwards succeeds or fails largely upon communication. Effective leaders who practice this skill most effectively keep their bosses well-informed about the activities they are driving and the progress they are making, along with their team. The goal here is to communicate in such a way that the boss knows how to help the project manager work to his/her full potential. The stakeholder identification process and prioritization map can add much value to the stakeholder action plan.
4. Responding to Change
Many businesses have followed the philosophy that project plans were made by smart people and then carried out by everyone else. This approach has trickled down to project management, where the project plan has become a document that few dared to question. It has become easier (and more acceptable) to follow it than challenge it.
With proper change management controls and decision-making levels, we can ensure necessary changes are identified and implemented with all options considered. Escalation processes can be built to facilitate the communication of the changes at all levels.
5. Scheduling & Monitoring
Unfortunately, many business projects are completed late. Invariably this negatively impacts the company’s reputation and costs both the contractor and their customer money. Often, the company has to pay penalties for finishing late, and they incur additional costs to remain longer on the project. The customer usually faces additional costs for implementing the project late or for a longer period.
A well-prepared schedule, with proper use of planning tools, allows us to detect early when a project is running late. When we fall behind, the course of action is for the project manager to effectively apply the various options to bring the project back on track.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arnold Chan is a Trainer and Consultant of Cegos Asia Pacific. He is a Professional Member of Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, and an Accredited Conference Speaker for Asia Productivity Organization. His competencies and specialization are in project management, organization design and development, strategic management, innovation quality, managing knowledge workers, negotiation, leadership and business planning.
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