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How to Improve Your Project Management Skills

Improving Your Project Management Skills

A project manager can be a highly paid and in-demand role whose responsibility is to deliver successful projects. Projects may include anything from expanding a product line to revamping the internal IT infrastructure. Project managers focus on delivering projects and meeting the employer’s quality, budgetary, and deadline requirements. Some of the main skills required for this include organization, communication, and interpersonal skills. 

What is Project Management?

Project management is the process of leading a team and their tasks to achieve project goals within the specified timeline. The term ‘Project Management’ covers a wide range of duties and responsibilities. Let’s read about it in detail below. 

a) Initiation

Initiating involves determining the needs of the project. Higher management and other leading stakeholders carry out research and analysis of the return on investment (ROI) and compare it with the risks involved. If the return is justified over the risks involved, they proceed with the project.

b) Planning and Strategizing

Planning includes analyzing and gathering the project’s requirements and assessing the involved risk. This is followed by developing a risk minimization strategy. Then, an action plan is formulated as the next step in line with project needs and timelines.

c) Execution

The team begins actioning the planned steps during execution. The project manager delegates authority and assigns tasks. This phase stretches for the majority of the project timeline.

d) Monitoring and Controlling

Monitoring and controlling progress within the execution phase. The purpose is to ensure the alignment of the project with the financial and logistical constraints. The project manager monitors progress and keeps making adjustments as needed along the way.

e) Closing

The project manager delivers the finished product to the respective stakeholders or clients during this phase. After the client’s approval, the teams evaluate the project and identify improvement areas. This is done to enhance future processes.

A project manager wears many hats and needs to have a diverse set of skills. Project management skills are a group of abilities, competencies, and traits needed for the efficient completion of a project within the specified timeline. While these include some personality traits, many of them can be learned and developed over time. In this article, we will discuss the importance and future of project management skills and how you can improve them.

Why are project management skills critical?

Until a few years ago, project management was considered a specialized profession with limited applications. But by the end of the current decade, industry experts assert that all organizations will move to project-based value creation, which focuses on generating project deliverables for internal or external clients. Moreover, job roles will change from being based on department or operation to projects. Hence, project management would become essential for all departments and industries, making it a necessary future skill. A study shows that by 2027 almost 88 million people will be working in a project-based role, contributing to a global project economy valued at $20 trillion by then.

At present, however, the employees do not seem to be prepared. As a result, only 35% of all projects undertaken globally are successful. This means an overwhelming amount of resources are going to waste because of the skills gap in project management. Thus, to prepare yourself and your team for a project-driven economy, we recommend looking into the skills gap in project management skills. Project management skills include the following:

  • Communication and active listening skills
  • Leadership and motivation
  • Influencing without authority
  • Problem-solving and risk management
  • Organization and prioritization
  • Time management
  • Planning
  • Conflict management and negotiation
  • Stakeholder management
  • Adaptability and agility
  • Project management frameworks and methodologies
  • Cost and quality management
  • Strategy and business acumen
  • Ethics & values

How to improve project management skills

a) Pursue online courses

Signing up for online certification courses can be a great first step toward improving your project management skills. Identify courses based on your project management needs, compare some of the best options, and go for the most relevant ones. You can find multiple academic and online certification programs to enhance your project management skills and knowledge. 

b) Be open to feedback

Ask for feedback from your team. This will allow you to work on your skills and management style to match your team’s needs better. Since you have to work with your team closely as a project manager, it is essential to have an alignment between your style of management and how they respond to it. You can ask for feedback during the closing phase but we encourage asking for feedback from your team and clients at regular intervals.

c) Learn project management methodologies

There are many project management methodologies that you can adopt. These may depend on your management style and skills, requirements of the project, members of your team, and your workplace. Some popular methods include waterfall, agile, scrum, lean, and more.

d) Adopt job shadowing

You can also improve your skills by job shadowing other project managers. Reach out to your close colleagues in the same role, ask to observe what they do, and learn from it. This will help you understand how senior managers work with their team, adopt new methods, enhancing your skills. After building a working relationship, ask them to be your mentors. Having a mentor from the same line of work is beneficial to improving your performance and skills.

e) Look for relevant content online

You can find a lot of relevant information online too. This includes podcasts, articles, posts, journals, blogs, and informative videos. They help you keep up with the trends and news in the project management industry. In addition, they bring perspective from the whole industry, which allows you to improve your problem-solving abilities and critical-thinking skills. We highly recommend reading research journals related to project management. Some of them are the International Journal of Project Management, Project Management Journal, Journal of Modern Project Management, and Journal of Project Management.

f) Learn from your team

Team building is essential in any project. If your team cannot work cohesively, it doesn’t matter how good you are at project management. But how does team building improve your project management skills? Project teams have experience working on various projects. A constructive, cohesive, and supportive team culture helps the team and the project, allowing you to learn from your subordinates without risking the loss of authority. A culture of learning from each other is a key characteristic of resilient and high-performance teams.

g) Work with a coach

Working with a coach is a practical approach to improving your project management skills. With the help of a good coach, you can overcome project obstacles and support your professional development. They help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, develop a plan to improve your skillset, and reach your goals. Having a professional guide you through your development journey keeps you accountable and on track.

Tips for effective project management

a) Build a detailed schedule

A detailed project schedule is an essential first step toward efficient project management. Develop a plan for your project and make sure everyone has access to it. The plan should clearly show the proposed timeline, steps for project progress, team tasks, and deadlines.

b) Set realistic expectations. 

At the end of the day, we are all humans. This means that only a certain amount of productivity can be achieved with the available resources. So, to avoid burnout and anxiety, it is essential to set realistic expectations for yourself and your team.

c) Develop a communication plan. 

Communication is crucial for a good project team. It involves reporting weekly progress, risks, learnings, and best practices. Develop communication channels for each. Establish how you will communicate with your teams, clients, and other stakeholders and maintain those expectations. Remember to account for regional or local culture while establishing communication in an international or regional project different from yours.

d) Organize files

Develop an organization system to store, save, and share files. You can sort and save them based on color, name, codes, or cloud-based applications. It is essential because paperwork increases exponentially as the project progresses. Thus, organizing efficiently saves time and effort.

e) Use project management tools

Use tools that help you manage your team better. Through them, you can share project updates, assign tasks, track progress, and set reminders. Consider using the ones that integrate better with your apps and your organization’s internal network. Some of the popular examples include ClickUp, Zoho projects, and Team Gantt.

f) Encourage accountability

All project management teams work as a unit and are thus, dependent on each for timely delivery and adhering to internal deadlines. Encouraging responsibility helps you eliminate the risk of micro-managing your team. This also develops a culture of trust, giving team members more satisfaction.

g) Address problems and mistakes

Mistakes can happen on any project. It is essential to address them as you notice them. Create a culture where the admission of error does not invite unwanted criticism or penalty. Instead, it brings an opportunity to learn and improve for everyone. It will encourage open communication and comfort within the team and allow members to be more creative and solutions-oriented.

As the market for project management will witness growth in the coming years, competition in the industry will grow. Thus, it is essential to have top-notch skills to survive. Also, if you feel that you possess the skills to be a good project manager, we highly recommend looking into a career in project management. It is a growing field with a promising future. So, get certified and plan your career change today.