This paper was presented to a conference on "The Project Management Information Society", May 14-16, 1995, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It was given at a time when the idea of a Canadian project management institute was being promoted.

Published November 2001

Introduction  | Client-Server | Leadership | Project Life Cycle
Team Building | Skills |  Knowledge | PMI•Canada | Conclusions

The Necessary Skills

What are the project management skills required? Referring back to our hi-tech information distribution example, these skills are not, as we might expect, an in-depth knowledge of systems, computer technology or software. True, a sufficient knowledge of these subjects was certainly required, but an unbalanced knowledge of the project in this respect could actually be a barrier to successful project performance. Rather, the skills sets, that is, for the members of the project managing team, relate to the "people" dimension. For example, the project manager or team leader, whatever he or she may be called, should have an ability to:

  • Handle stress and take responsibility for the success or failure of the project.
  • Lead through formal and informal authority, especially in a corporate matrix environment, winning the support of the project's stakeholders for its goals.
  • Organize and coordinate all contributors to the project, especially specialists with superior knowledge, or stakeholders with vested interests.
  • Foster positive problem solving and negotiation without compromising project objectives.
  • Understand and deal with conflicts that inevitably arise, and achieve harmony between diverging or opposing technical views, and arrive at timely closure.
  • Assess project status and progress and make mature judgments that focus on the success of the project.

What does all this add up to? Focused "communication" skills and "people" skills. For many, particularly those who are more comfortable with science and engineering or, for that matter, computer hardware and software, this is "touchy-feely" stuff! They are far more comfortable with the mechanistic aspects of project management, namely the tools and techniques of time and cost control.

But this is the new reality. Projects are done by people and they must contribute effectively and efficiently. Unless they are motivated and encouraged to do so, and stay focused on the project's objectives, no amount of "tools and techniques" will save a poor project from getting worse.

Leadership and Team Building  Leadership and Team Building

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