Most Important PM Skills
PMWT: What are the three most important traits or skills for project managers today?
Max: The three or four most important traits or skills for project managers today is an interesting question. We could look to the various project management associations for guidance. The Project Management Institute, for example, identifies 39 project management processes in its current 2004 Body of Knowledge. Each of these processes obviously requires specific skills on the part of the project manager to conduct successfully. So, although there is no doubt some overlap, that's 39 to choose from. A year earlier, Professor Crawford's Project Manager Role Model identified 47 units to be managed, while the USA's National Competence Baseline, promulgated by asapm, encompasses 51 elements in five competence areas. So, paring any of those down to just three or four is something of a challenge.
But perhaps it is not as challenging as it looks. The fundamental philosophy underpinning project management and justifying its existence is simply "Plan before doing". So the ability to plan successfully is obviously the first important skill. However, to get something done, you need people to do the "doing" and for that you need the skill to persuade people to do just that. And that, I think requires the third and ultimate skill, the ability to communicate effectively.
In short, without communication no one knows what to do, without motivated people there is no one to do anything, and without planning, no one gets anything done. So there you have it, the three most important project manager skills: Planning, Persuading and Promulgating (communication). Of course there are a lot of other desirable skills, but mostly they fall into subsets of these three.