Today’s fast-paced, competitive and technology-driven business environments are motivating organizations to think strategically and use projects to create the necessary changes and/or outcomes that will achieve their desired business goals. Project management skills are vital to ensuring the accomplishment of these strategic initiatives and business changes. Experienced project managers ensure that scarce people resources are used productively, project costs are kept in check and project outcomes are in sync with the sanctioned business requirements.
There are many ways project management skills help organizations complete projects and reasons why your organization should value them. Here are four examples:
1. Getting work done across business silos: Organizations are optimized for ongoing operations, but projects require people to work across silos on unfamiliar tasks to create something new. Project managers understand how to engage a matrixed team and help it through acclimation stages to become motivated and productive. Project managers also leverage their skills in stakeholder management to ensure all the various and competing expectations of those associated with the project are explored, satisfied or managed.
2. Setting boundaries for the amount of work: Identifying all that the project entails is called scoping the project. Tools like a work breakdown structure and context diagram are used by the project manager to help their stakeholders visualize scope. Project managers know that scope creep can negatively impact a project if not kept in check. Project managers implement change control to help them quantify the impact of new requests or changing requirements on the schedule and budget. Project managers also use the concept of minimum viable product to help their stakeholders determine what features are critical versus what could be added later, to help phase delivery of value.
3. Sharing the information: Good project managers are also excellent communicators. They use a variety of techniques to insure information is shared in the right ways and at the right times so project stakeholders are informed and team members get what they need to execute the work. Project managers need to excel in both written and verbal communications, and be active listeners. They must be good at meeting facilitation and creating formal presentations. Most importantly, project managers must analyze their stakeholders to understand what type of communication matters most to each, and then be as flexible as possible in providing it.
4. Starting with the end in mind: Projects that don’t end not only delay the realization of profit, but also impact other projects from starting. Project managers use techniques like the critical path to learn which task dependencies could cause the most damage to the schedule if not on time, or the backward pass to ensure the project includes only those activities that will allow it to end at a specified time. Planning for the close of a project also includes activities like capturing lessons learned, helping the team transition off, archiving assets and helping the organization “operationalize” the project outcome.
Project managers can learn some of these skills through on-the-job experience but most have required formal project management training to lay the foundation.