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5 Key Competencies of a Successful Project Management Professional

5 Key Competencies of a Successful Project Management Professional

Good project managers and team members are hard to find, and having a project with great personnel is like striking a gold mine.  Here is an insight into my evaluation of the top tier of project personnel, based on over 30 years of working on and delivering projects and programmes.

These must have competencies for project management professionals who deliver successful projects and satisfy clients, their own organisations and team members alike are categorised into five competence areas:

1.    Leadership

A good leader demonstrates the ability to command authority naturally.  They instinctively know what skills to use to enlist the help of others. Naturally charismatic and optimistic, they are usually viewed in a favourable light by others and will be valued by the clients and project organisation.  However, charisma alone is not enough – they must have the knowledge and skills to back it up!

Their leadership abilities allow them to demonstrate their independent and fair consensus-building skills as and when conflict arises.  No-one likes conflict, and they will manage it to ensure it does not overtake the project but recognise that it can deliver benefits to the project if managed appropriately for decision-making or bringing the project back under control.  Their team will respect them and be happy to follow.

As natural leaders, they will cultivate extensive informal networks inside and outside the organisation that will assist in identifying critical issues that threaten the project and allow them to handle them resolutely.

2. Decision-Making

A good project leader understands the constraints against the project and the need for quick and concise, relevant decision-making.  As a decision-maker, they will possess the ability to know what is important and what can be ignore, which can be extremely useful as they are often swamped with information and need to know what is crucial to the project and what can be put aside and looked at later.  They will have excellent communication skills to support their decision-making capabilities.

Often clients will force changes on the project – many of which may be relevant, but if the project is working towards a launch of a new product for example, the client may need to be reminded that the project team was chosen for its skills and capabilities and be allowed to have a key say in decision-making.  Decision-making is crucial to allow useful changes to go ahead and block others.

3. Communication

It is suggested that project managers and leaders spend approximately 90% of their time on communication.  Communication takes many forms and it provides an insight into the needs and expectations of stakeholders, it provides information as to what is relevant and achievable by the project team and SME’s and they should be sufficiently self-aware to know how well their communication is being received by all parties.

For communication to work, they recognise that it is a two-way process and they take time to ask questions and listen to responses before making key decisions.  Good leaders don’t block sharing of information unless there is an actual need for secrecy (which may be required with some information), they will communicate clearly, completely, and concisely, providing real information so that others can do with it what is needed and deliver.

4. Time Management

Good project leaders know that all projects are under time constraints, and if on a critical chain project, this is more crucial than ever.  They will establish project priorities frequently, observing and re-evaluating frequently to ensure they can focus and prioritise where needed.    Simple things like limiting the number of meetings and email communication can assist greatly.  Often, in projects, we like to introduce additional procedures when not needed, adding extraneous time to an already time-driven project. 

A key part of time-management is in the project schedules and they will focus on the schedule, being aware of the critical path and any resource limited events and will work closely with the planner to ensure they can deliver to the schedule as expected.   They will capture snapshots of actual progress to calculate Earned Value in order to identify any variances quickly allowing them to take action quickly and get the project back on track.  They recognise the need to maintain the project schedule and eliminate as many variables as possible.

5. Project Management Skills

It stands to reason that all excellent project leaders will possess domain expertise in project management competencies.   Regardless of field or industry, they will understand the methodology and how best those skills can be applied.   In particular areas of industry, generic project management skills may not be enough; then they need to have a deep familiarity with one or multiple areas of their own industry in order to provide them with an air of natural authority and solid strategic insight.

Regardless, a good project leader must understand the tools that are to be used and how they should be used in order to understand whether what they are requesting is valid, or what they are being presented with is of the standard needed in order to deliver the project successfully.

Experienced project personnel will understand the environment within which the project is formulated, assessed and realised, covering all the external influences that are brought to bear on a project.  They will formulate the project throughout the project life cycle and will drive the project through the planning, organisation, monitoring and controlling aspects while motivating all involved in achieving the project objectives safely and within agreed time, cost and performance criteria.

OSBM hosts a number of Project Management Training Courses, some of which are registered seminars under the Project Management Institute (PMI®). Develop your project management skills and have the competitive advantage in the industry.

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