Project Management Training: The Forgotten Skills
Most project management training provides instruction in most or all of the following topics:
- The basic principles involved
- Roles and responsibilities
- Planning, estimating, contingencies, work breakdown structures
- Contracts or agreements
- Reviewing, Risk and Quality Management
- Project Management Software (eg: PMW, or Project Manager Workbench)
- Project Management Methodologies (eg: Prince2)
These topics often feature in the course contents list for project management training, and they are all very important topics for project managers to learn about. However, there are some vital skills missing from this list that can have a major impact on project delivery.
Project Management Training: the missing skills
What is missing from most project management courses is the development of soft skills. Projects are delivered by people and their attitudes can make a massive difference to the success of the project. At worst, people who are resistant or pursuing their own agendas can make the project fail, though even just an attitude of indifference can pose a serious risk. On the other hand, when people are managed well, within the project management process and structure, they can overcome great difficulty and help deliver a project 'against the odds'.
The soft skills required for a successful project fall into four main areas:
- Small Teams
- Team Islands
- Project Culture
Skills for dealing with individualsA project manager has to deal with a wide range of people, such as project sponsors, suppliers, experienced professionals and novice administrative support staff. Often, for each of those people, the project manager is just one of a number of competing pressures, with very little actual power or authority. Therefore, good interpersonal skills are needed to win cooperation and involvement.
Skills for dealing with small teamsAt the core of each project there is usually a small team who need to perform well together to deliver the project goals. The team may be continually changing (people joining and leaving). Such a dynamic environment is very demanding of team leadership skills.
Dealing with Team IslandsMost projects inevitably involve a network of small teams who are interacting with a number of projects, and many on a part-time basis. This situation often creates a number of 'team islands' where teams may work well in their own team, but difficulty arises in cross-team co-operation. These barriers need to be overcome in order for the project to progress.
Large projects/cultural changeProject Managers rarely have opportunity to set the project culture, as it is usually determined by the wider organisational culture, but there are some skills and techniques that can be useful and build a more co-operative environment.
The role of soft skills in project delivery
Most project management training concentrates on the things that can be directly measured: milestones, methodologies, roles, etc.. The people skills are omitted because they are "soft": they cannot be measured in the same way that deliverables can. However, the inability to measure soft skills belies the fact that these skills are as important to project delivery as the methodologies for planning and control.
We have an online training course in Project Management Soft Skills.
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