skills of pm

Abilities and skills of a successful project manager

What are the most important skills and abilities for a project manager to be successful?

Being good at telling others what to do is not enough and not exactly right for a successful project manager. Instead, lead and inspire the team, this is another story.

A project manager is responsible for managing the work through the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet the requirements of the project.

Knowing the theory of project management, but not having the right skills and abilities, is useless.

Similarly, having the right tools and techniques, but without the ability to use them properly is insignificant.

So let’s see together in this article what are the most important skills and qualities for a project manager.

Inspire a shared vision

A successful project manager is often described as a person who owns and inspires the group a shared vision of where to go and has the ability to articulate it.

Visionaries thrive in change and are able to draw new boundaries.

Once it was said that …

a leader is someone who gives us a reason to be and gives the vision and the spirit to change.

Visionary leaders let people feel that they have a real interest in the project and allow people to experience this vision, create it, and explore it.

Good communicatio

The ability to communicate with people at all levels has always been considered a fundamental skill in project managers.

The leadership of the project requires clear communication on goals, responsibilities, performance, expectations, and feedback.

The project manager is also the team’s connection with the organization and therefore must have the ability to negotiate and effectively use persuasion, when necessary, to ensure the success of the team and the project.

Through effective communication, project leaders support individual and group results by creating explicit guidelines for achieving results and advancing team members’ careers.

Integrity

One of the most important things a project manager has to remember is that his actions, not his words, determine the modus operandi for the team.

Good leadership requires commitment and demonstration of ethical practices.

Creating standards of ethical behaviour for themselves and following them, in addition to rewarding those who exemplify them, are the responsibilities of project managers.

Leadership motivated by personal interest does not serve the general well-being of the team.

Integrity-based leadership represents nothing less than a set of values shared by others, behaviour that is consistent with values and dedication to honesty with oneself and with team members.

Enthusiasm

In a very clear and simple way, negative project managers break down and discourage the team.

People always tend to follow positive people with a so-called “can-do” attitude, not those that always give reasons why something cannot be done.

Enthusiastic project managers are committed to their goals and express this commitment through optimism.

Leadership emerges when someone expresses a commitment in such a manner that others want to share his optimistic expectations.

Enthusiasm is contagious and successful project managers know this well.

Empathy

Empathy presupposes the existence of the other as a separate individual with his own feelings, ideas, and emotional histories.

Understanding and caring for people, as well as being grateful for their help, are some of the qualities that a successful project manager shows to his team members.

For example:

it is particularly appreciated by the team when a project leader recognizes the fact that everyone has a life outside of work.


ability of pm

Competence

Of course, to believe in another person – especially in work – we need to make sure that person knows what he is doing.

Leadership competence does not necessarily refer only to the technical skills of the project manager, but also to the ability to successfully lead the team.

The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, shape, and encourage must be demonstrated if a project manager wants to be seen as capable, competent, and successful.

Ability to delegate tasks

Trust is an essential element in the relationship between a project manager and his team.

And this trust in others must be shown through the actions of the project manager, like for example: How much he controls the work of the team members, how much he delegates, how much he allows people to participate in the project.

Individuals who are unable to trust other people often fail as project managers and find themselves doing all the work on their own to the detriment of the project’s success.

Ability to manage stress and work under pressure

In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, within budget, and without major issues or obstacles to overcome.

But we know, we don’t live in a perfect world: Projects always have problems, more or less serious depending on the situation.

A successful project manager will then react to these problems calmly and will not panic.

When leaders encounter a stressful event, they consider it interesting, they feel they can influence the result and see it as an opportunity and not as something purely negative.

From the uncertainty and chaos of change, successful project managers articulate a new picture of the future that still leads the project towards a positive ending.

Team building skills

A project manager is a strong person who provides the substance that keeps the team together in a common purpose towards the final goal.

In order for a team to move from a group of strangers to a single cohesive unit, the project manager must understand the process and the dynamics required for this transformation.

He must also know the appropriate leadership style to use during each phase of team development.

Last but not least, the successful project manager must also understand the different styles and characters of the team members and be able to take advantage of everyone at the right time.

Ability to solve problems

Although it is said that an effective project manager shares responsibility for solving problems with the team, it is still expected that the project leader has excellent problem-solving skills.

In conclusion, creating realistic project plans, budgets, estimate times and efforts, etc. are certainly skills that a successful project manager must possess.

But keeping the work organized and the team informed and happy is fundamental and these skills are what a project manager needs to succeed in his work.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

the rolling wave

The rolling wave in project management

The rolling wave technique is a method that allows the project manager to plan a project while it is taking place.

In short, this technique requires iterative planning.

This type of planning is very similar to that used in Scrum or in other Agile methodologies.

In essence, the rolling wave method allows you to plan until you have visibility to implement the plan, while the next steps are planned while working directly to the previous phases.

An example of rolling wave

A simple example of rolling wave is one where you expect to complete a project in eight months, but you only have clarity for the first three months. In this case, the first three months are planned.

As the project progresses and greater clarity is achieved, the following months can be planned.

The rolling wave technique uses progressive processing, which means processing work packages in more detail as the project unfolds.

But be careful that it does not mean that this planning method does not exempt the project manager from creating a list of milestones and assumptions for the project.

It is necessary to provide milestones and the key hypotheses as they will help stakeholders to understand why they are using the rolling wave method and what to expect while the project progresses.

 When to apply the rolling wave method

This method can be applied when:

  • It is not possible to define a detailed project plan shortly.
  • It is not clear which deliverables should be produced.
  • It is not possible to organize the different phases of the project.

The rolling wave method is particularly useful in projects with high uncertainty. Therefore, it is necessary to use the best risk management practices.

The rolling wave planning, therefore, is the process of breaking down the work breakown structure into time intervals.

At the end of each phase, the project manager will study the structure of the WBS and will expand it to include more details.

It is particularly suitable for projects where the work involved in a phase is highly variable and depends on the result of the previous phase, such as projects that require prototypes and, in general, in the engineering sector.

The advantages of the rolling wave method

This type of approach to project management is particularly useful when the availability of the information needed to plan future work packages in detail is based on the successful completion of the previous phases of the project.

This technique can also help reduce turnaround time in two ways:

  • By allowing the start of productive activities without waiting for every detail of the work to be determined in advance.
  • By eliminating downtime for additional planning in the middle of a project, since planning is performed continuously.

This type of planning also has the following advantages:

  • Encourages adaptability
  • Encourages planning
  • It is excellent for research and development projects, high technology and inventions
  • It is excellent for projects with variable capacity

The rolling wave planning is done in 4 simple steps:

  • Create the WBS.
  • Divide the project into phases.
  • Provide a realistic level of detail for each phase.
  • Once the considered phase is completed, return to step 1 to manage the next phase.

The steps of the rolling wave planning

rolling wave

Now let’s look at these steps in detail.

Create the WBS

The work breakdown structure is the nucleus around which all the other project management planning processes take place.

This involves splitting each project into single work items.

Each work item requires an identification number, a description, and a member of the team responsible for that particular activity, and sometimes it has additional elements such as budget, expiration date, and dependencies with other tasks.

Throughout the project life cycle, these work items are monitored and progress is recorded and reported.

Divide the project into phases

The phases are more simply the points in which an important moment for the project in general takes place.

For example, if we consider the creation of a prototype, a phase could be concluded with the presentation of a first prototype model.

From this stage others may follow, depending on the result – which is still uncertain. For example, the prototype could be accepted, thus starting the large-scale production phase, or it could be declared unsuitable, thus starting the re-elaboration phase.

Provide a realistic level of detail for each phase

Clearly, as you continue planning on the timeline, the phases will have less and less detail.

This is a clear concept in the rolling wave methodology, given that information on future steps is few or there are no information at all.

The work breakdown structure will therefore contain less details regarding the successive phases, but these will be reviewed and completed when the phases begin to be near in time.

Once the considered phase is completed, return to step 1 to manage the next phase

There is not much to say at this point. As explained above, as the project continues in its cycle, it will be possible to determine and manage the phases that come near in the future.

In general, it is always important, before starting with the execution of a project, to have a plan at the beginning of any project.

If the project will be known in detail immediately, it will be possible to continue with traditional planning, otherwise the rollign wave method can be used.

Choosing the wrong planning methodology can lead to loss of control over the project.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

manage complex projects

The management of complex projects

Complex projects represent a great undertaking for a Project Manager.

It means coping with a variety of tasks, having different people to manage and with which to communicate and having multiple goals to achieve.

How can a project manager reach the goal with so many factors in the game? Let’s seeit in this article.

What makes a project complex?

It is important to understand that there is a difference between a complex project and a difficult project.

A complex project is not necessarily difficult. Conversely, projects can be difficult due to cost or performance, but this does not automatically mean that they are complex.

Complexity refers to projects that include ambiguity or uncertainty and are therefore surrounded by unpredictability.

There are a variety of factors that cause the complexity of the project, for example:

  • Technology: The technical content of a project can cause complexity. This could depend on the technology used or the development of the software.
  • Cost and budget: The project may have to face problems such as not attracting enough capital to achieve the goals or have problems in directing the funds towards the right aspects of the project.
  • Program: Complexity can come from the time of the project.
  • Very different political stakeholders: Projects can bring together different stakeholders, which can be a problem, especially if politics is involved. Different political interests can increase complexity, since the project must handle different requirements and expectations.
  • Legal: Even legal issues related to a project can increase complexity. Sometimes the legal complexity can be linked to the political one.
  • Social: This may be due to the fact that the members of the group come from different social contexts or it can be the case when the project works within a specific social context.

It is therefore necessary, first and foremost, to identify why a given project can be considered complex and then proceed to address it.

The essential skills needed to manage complex projects

 The management of a complex project requires different capacities, including:

  • Adaptability
  • Cooperation
  • Communication
  • Competence
  • Leadership

A project is constantly evolving and project managers must evolve with it. It is not always possible to think that there are “white or black” solutions.

The time will come when the project manager will be forced to adapt his management style based on the change in the situation.

The communication is probably the most important project management skill. It is essential that PMs effectively convey and manage vision, ideas, goals, and problems.

Moreover, project managers must also produce and display reports, also using disruptive technologies and presentations that are informative and clear.

Communication is closely linked to collaboration. A project manager must be willing to collaborate with the project team. Working with others in order to achieve goals is important for any type of project, especially if it is complex.

Competence and Leadership to manage complex projects

Finally, competence and leadership go hand in hand. Leadership consists of guiding, directing, and motivating the team to do its best and make the members understand how their tasks contribute to the overall vision. Leadership develops with experience, through practical and real work.

Having these essential skills is the key to identifying what makes a project complex and managing it.

So let’s see in practice how to manage a complex project.
complex projects

Manage complex projects: Document regularly

Project can be divided into perfectly manageable mini-projects, but without clear documentation on the single tasks and how they relate to the whole, the project remains unclear.

Clear and up-to-date documentation is the answer to this problem.

This allows the project manager to define everyone’s roles and their results and ensures that the overview is clear to all team members.

The project manager has the task of documenting everything and regularly sending the project status to the team and to the stakeholders – as agreed.

Managing complex projects: Continuously clarify goals

If you do not understand the “why” behind the project, it is very difficult to succeed.

When a project manager delegates without clearly defined goals, the team will fail. It is therefore important that team members understand their role and the tasks that they have to perform.

Clarifying the goals regularly also ensures that the project remains aligned with the initial plan.

Managing complex projects: Make everything more visible

 During a complex project, the team is often confused by the details and it becomes problematic to continue when it is saturated by too much information.

To create greater visibility within a project, a good practice is to adopt a project management tool that works for the project manager, the team, and the stakeholders.

This tool will allow all project users to stay informed and clearly see the status of the project and what is happening, using this tool as a unique source of information.

Managing complex projects: Be flexible

A constant in complex projects is the continous changing and for this, a project manager must be able to adapt and be flexible.

It is therefore important to ensure that processes are set up in such a manner to allow the team to remain agile and respond to changing requests.

The project manager adds value by making things more efficient and effective and / or reducing risks, precisely thanks to his ability to adapt.

Want to know more about Twproject Mobile app?

One try is worth a million words.