There are essential skills in good project management, just as there are essential tools (to read about project management tools, click here). What exactly are the project management skills essential to delivering a large-scale project on-time and on-budget? How do you put each skill in place?
We have answered that question below for each of the following 5 essential skills:
- Time management
Project Management Skill 1: Communication
What it is: A large-scale project typically includes the skills of a variety of areas within an organization – finance, HR, marketing, etc. In addition, it is extremely rare for one individual to be responsible for every task. These two elements of project management make communication essential to success.
How to get communication in your project: We will touch on this skill several more times below as it is essential in so many ways, but for now, the communication tool we have found to be absolutely necessary to a project’s success is a brief weekly meeting. The structure of the meeting can be the same each week:
- Review tasks due to date
- Determine if any tasks are behind schedule or if any issues have come up
- Problem solve as a team to create the best solution for keeping the project moving forward
- Modify the project template as needed to reflect any changes
- Communicate to the organization’s leadership on progress to date
Requiring this weekly meeting is critical to the project remaining on track as well as top of mind amongst the day-to-day work of team members. It needn’t be a long meeting – just a quick opportunity to touch base and problem solve as needed.
Project Management Skill 2: Accountability
What it is: Accountability is most simply defined as assigned responsibility for an activity. For any project management plan, assigning accountability to individual team members for completing the work of the plan is essential.
How to get accountability in your project: Just as there are layers of work within a project, there are layers of accountability. At the highest level is the project manager or lead we mentioned above. He or she must be assigned accountability to the organization for keeping the project as a whole running smoothly, while maintaining communication with organization leadership on progress, problems and help needed.
Next, each major track of activity within a project should also have leader assigned accountability for results on that track. Those track leaders should be reporting to the overall project leader regularly, providing assistance to their team members when needed and getting help from the organization where required.
Finally, to have a successful project, each task must be assigned to an individual who is held accountable for that task’s on-time completion. Each team member assigned an individual task reports his or her progress to the track lead on a regular basis.
Accountability is best monitored through weekly or bi-weekly meetings mentioned above. Two caveats: the purpose of accountability checks, i.e., assessing progress, is NOT to lay blame and point fingers when tasks fall behind, but rather to get help and problem solve. People will shy away from accountability if they sense the intent is to make them wrong rather than to get them help when needed. Second caveat: team members are held accountable for getting the assigned tasks done, not for results or impact of those tasks. For that we need flexibility, which is the next project management skill.
Project Management Skill 3: Flexibility
What it is: Flexibility in a project is critical. Problems arise, tasks intended to have one result may in fact have an entirely different one, some tasks take longer than predicted, a key team member leaves. The project team’s ability to assess what is happening on the project, set a course correction and design the needed changes into the project plan is a primary key to the project’s success.
How to get flexibility in your project: At the weekly meetings, the project team needs to assess progress on all tasks that are due or in progress to date. Have problems or challenges arisen? Is there new information that wasn’t available before? Is the work on the project having its intended impact? Based on the answers to these questions, the team determines if any modifications to the project plan are needed and roll those changes out.
Project Management Skill 4: Time management
What it is: Time management on a large project is essential to getting the project done on time and on budget. When multiple, interdependent tracks of activity are happening simultaneously, the need for good time management amongst team members is critical.
How to get time management in your project: When laying out the initial project plan, a start and finish date should be assigned to every single task of the project, not just the overall project as a whole. The individual assigned to a task determines the number of days that particular task will take to complete. Those task timelines are lined up throughout each track of activities or tasks. The team can then determine the longest track of activity, or critical path for the project. The critical path is essentially the least amount of time the project can take. Monitoring the critical path weekly is essential to keeping the project on track to be completed on time. The team can provide help on tasks falling behind, adjust tasks, etc. to keep the project moving forward as planned.
Project Management Skill 5: Coordination
What it is: By coordination, we mean organizing the project, i.e., bringing together the various individuals and tracks of activity into one cohesive plan, allowing the whole project to move forward on-time and on-budget. Project management is called on to tackle large scale, complex projects. By nature, “large scale” and “complex” denote many tasks happening simultaneously in widely varied areas, like finance, training, construction, marketing, etc. This kind of complexity requires coordination.
How to get coordination in your project: To achieve coordination in your project make sure that the project as a whole, as well as each major track of activity is assigned to a team leader. This group of team leads should meet once a week, or every two weeks at most, to review the overall plan, the progress to date within each track of activity and any challenges that have arisen.
A tool to incorporate all these skills
You can work with this list of skills to develop a successful project plan for your next project. We have also described a good template here. However, we encourage you to consider using a tool already developed to deliver what is needed to bring a project in on-time and on-budget. Professional Growth Systems’ Dynamic Planning® process is described here. If you need additional information or would like help getting started, please don’t hesitate to contact us via e-mail or phone, (877) 276-4414.