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4 key skills of a project manager

Rajiv Mathur
February 28, 2014

It is a given and a prerequisite that project managers must possess certain skills and qualities before they are given the responsibility of managing projects.

A project manager is therefore a person of many skills, but there are always some issues that project managers lose sight of, or do not given due importance to, during various stages of the project that require these four key skills.

1. Discipline

Project managers, often after few good projects under the belt, can fall into the trap of a know-it-all attitude which leads to shortcuts and risks in managing the project being taken.

The key attitude at all stages is to approach each project and manage it with discipline. Every step of project process specific to your project must be implemented. Success will follow this approach.

2. Planning and planning

Whether it is a project or a marketing exercise, war between nations or even arranging a wedding, parties etc, planning for success is the first but crucial step.

Planning of a project consists of a host of sub-tasks that require detailed working by the project manager. The sub-tasks are highly dependent on the type of project being executed.

I will not repeat the key tasks of project managers as you are very well aware of them. However tasks that need to be given high importance to can be summarised as below:

  • Break down structure of every activity (WBS)
  • Detailed schedule based on above; and
  • Analysis of the scope of work.

There are many small-to-medium-sized projects that many project managers do not give due importance to the core activity of planning specially those listed above.

3. Risk analysis

It is the project manager’s responsibility to manage all risks associated with his or her project. Risk analysis and management is a continuous process that begins with the project estimation stage until its final completion.

Identifying all the areas of the project that can lead to possible risk is a task that requires brainstorming, effort and time. It is a team task and often not given due importance as a collective effort.

4. Controlling

Though most project managers are good at controlling and monitoring the project as it goes along, there are reasons to believe that some aspects need to be given more importance due the dramatic outcome they are capable of producing.

Quality control
Quality does not happen by itself. Many project managers expect quality assurance managers and others to be fully responsible for the quality as required by the customer, but even in this case, project manager are often still partially responsible for it.

Risk control
On identification of risks it is imperative that the project manager oversees every member, product, testing and other area that is identified as a control of that particular risk.

Schedule control
Schedule has a great habit of slowly slipping and many project managers are initially confident of bringing it under control, however, it does not take long for it to get out of hand. Many experienced project managers can bring it under control, but the skills need to be practised.

Knowledge and the foundation of these skills is achieved by way of obtaining certification and/or by undergoing fundamental training. Development of these skills come about when you are on the job, and improvement is achieved when you undergo specific advanced training. Of course the projects executed successfully will bring about confidence.

Rajiv Mathur
Rajiv Mathur is the founder of Intensive Project Skills Training and a qualified engineer with a Post Graduate Diploma of Management from Deakin University. He has worked for highly respected multinational companies as well as iconic Australian companies in his 30+ years of experience in project management.
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3 thoughts on “4 key skills of a project manager

  1. I agree somewhat broadly with the comments above. I don’t feel as strongly on the importance of accreditation (though usefull) and I think stakeholder & change management are critical and can’t be left out. I’ve recently published a book for the beginner PM that talks in a bit more detail about the importance of the planning phase, in particular understanding what the customer actually expects as an outcome. It’s a good read if you want to know more about the issues Rajiv touches on above plus some other important points for the budding PM.

    Its available on Kindle and can be found here:

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