The fine arts of Project Management - Must-have skills for Project Managers
Project management requires flexibility, good judgement, strong leadership and negotiation skills, and a solid knowledge of project management best practices. When I was a child, one of my favourite hobbies was reading the dictionary my grandfather gave me. Every time I looked through my dictionary, I came across a new word. The same applies to projects: For success, we have to work harder. The best example which can be given is when the mother giraffe lovingly lowers her neck to smooch the baby giraffe. Then she lifts her long leg and kicks the baby giraffe, causing it to fly up in the air and tumble to the ground. As the baby lies there curled up, the mother kicks the baby again so that it learns stand on its own legs and walk. A project manager can also overcome all difficulties and adopt the fine arts of project management for project execution.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) and emotional management in the workplace
A wonderful and valuable topic in project management. What is Emotional Intelligence (EI), also known as Emotional Quotient (EQ)? EI is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of the people around you. As a project manager, if I have a higher level of EI, it will certainly have an impact on my ongoing project. Always make sure you maintain a good EI, which applies also for the project team, to ensure a successful project. How can we achieve this or how can we improve our emotional management in the workplace?
- Always keep everything under control – teach this also to your team
- Deliberately assess problems occurring in the project instead of panicking
- Always consider the emotions of others instead of simply expressing more empathy
- Be self-motivated and motivate your team – ultimately, your team is part of your success
- Only a better workplace and a motivated team can deliver better results
Innovation and creativity – always refresh your knowledge
The value of creativity and innovation is not only important in project management but in every organisation. A project manager is not only a planner, he should also be a good innovator and creative mind. From the start to the end of a project, a project team will surely face several challenges that need to be overcome. Together they know that it is not necessary to always use the same tools and techniques during the project life cycle – you can also experiment with innovation and creativity to get where you want.
Have you ever wondered how potters, painters or sculptors express their creativity and innovation? How is a painting created from a blank canvas? How is a pot made from fresh clay or how is a sculpture formed from a rock? Perhaps as a project manager you can be inspired by their creativity!
Prioritising tasks and creating the right environment
As project managers, it is our duty to rid ourselves of all nonsensical work and tension: the tidier and cleaner our workplace and mind, the higher is our productivity. At this point I would like to discuss the value and importance of prioritising work. There are many activities that we need to complete from our daily task log or sprint backlog. Instead of attacking a whole bunch of tasks, we can prioritise the task according to the importance of completion and work through them one by one. If we do this, we can focus on that important task and, once completed, move on to the next, slightly less important task.
Remember Parkinson's Law: best efforts for optimal delivery – always work with timeboxes
We know that the triple constraint (time, quality and costs) is one of the most important areas of project management. So you need someone to balance these three constraints – namely an experienced project manager. Yes, as a project manager, it is our duty to complete the project on schedule. For that, we should understand this famous expression by the historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." If you take a month to complete a task that should take one week, then the task is more difficult to complete and it takes longer to complete it. As project managers, our first duty is to plan and schedule the task duration rather than having a rough idea. Parkinson's Law states that if we take more time than planned, staff productivity will drop to fill the gap. The scope and time will only change the quality of the project if there is no project board involved; this is where the role of the experienced project manager comes in. An experienced and effective project manager will be able to get more done with less time than planned. Parkinson's Law states that working within a tight schedule rather than to a flexible one, does not hinder balancing the iron triangle for a successful project outcome.
Team management and team building: all for one and one for all
A good and strong team is always a vital part of every project’s success. As project managers, it is our duty to develop a strong and healthy team for successful delivery. For teams to be effective, it is important that team members are understood as individuals in terms of their skills, their preferences, their cultural norms and expectations, and the social dynamics between team members. We know that a healthy and highly motivated team can only perform well if it working towards a goal. If a team does not perform well during the project life cycle and cannot deliver the project as planned, it is not only a failure of the project manager, but a failure of the entire team. It is the responsibility of the project manager to motivate the team members so that the team can and desires to work effectively. We can develop a strong and highly motivated team by being transparent with team members, by enabling effective communication between team members and by prioritising work well. Last but not least, actively encourage and motivate your team members. We don’t desire a managerial style; we should act as leaders and should accept problems instead of firing the people concerned. Also, we can spend fun time with team members. A leader should recognize and value team members. Work for a common goal!
Managing conflicts and problem solving
Conflict management is another challenging area in project management. In my opinion, there is not just one reason, but many reasons when a conflict arises. As project managers, it is our duty to resolve them in order to move the team forward. Conflicts in project management are inevitable. The potential for conflicts in projects is typically high because people with different backgrounds and orientations are working together to solve a complex task. The cause of conflicts in team projects can be related to differences in values, attitudes, needs, expectations, perceptions, resources, and personalities. Proper skills in dealing with conflicts can help project managers and other organisational members to manage and resolve impediments effectively. This can lead to a more productive organisation. Project managers are also conflict managers and problem solvers, so we need to find the right solution before dealing with a conflict. The main reasons for project conflicts are poor communication, inadequate leadership, irresponsible behaviour and lack of resources and budget.
We know the word "Eureka!" from the famous mathematician Archimedes. If you know what a Eureka moment is, you can imagine its meaning in project management and among project leaders. A Eureka moment is a moment of sudden triumph, discovery, inspiration or insight. In other words, it is the human experience of suddenly having understood a backlog or past incomprehensible situations or tasks. In projects, too, there are always such situations in which we are stuck for a while or for days. This can be at the beginning of a project, but also in later project phases it can happen that we have a sudden or lightning-like idea - an Aha-moment. This moment can be a lesson for our future projects. We know that the world grows with technology, so be a creative thinker and innovate. We can also create the flash of Eureka moments for our projects by taking a short break from all the chaos, 5-10 minutes if possible. In this break we think well and have a deep discussion with the team members to achieve the best Eureka moment. And always be a creative thinker and a deep learner!
Managing project risks for a successful project and Murphy’s Law
Many of us do not know the true origin of project management. Have you ever heard this sentence: "If something can go wrong, it will"? Yes, this sentence later became the origin of project management, the true heart of project risk. We know very well that risks are inevitable, sometimes we can control it, but sometimes it is beyond our control, just as Murphy's Law states. As project managers, beyond presentations, excel sheets and time schedules, we need to keep an eye on and manage risks throughout the whole project life cycle. Even more important than rough planning is our attitude towards risk.
Consider all risks accordingly, as stated in Murphy's law, prepare a schedule so that we can categorise the risk. We leave out risks that are not within our control.
Change the mindset to choose the right path
A project manager and his project team should always adapt new ideas for their project activities. Instead of following the theoretical path, in my opinion, one should assess the situation and choose the right tools from the toolbox, because only those who are constantly learning can become good project managers. We must always look at our path and have the ability to predict which path is right or wrong. This is the art of a project manager, which can only be learned from personal experience.
About the author: Mahesh EV is a project manager with more than 11 years of practical experience and the Senior Official of the IAPM in the metropolitan regions of New Delhi, Trivandrum and Calicut, India. Mahesh's implementation of many procurement and construction projects has broadened his experience. He has demonstrated his skills in the successful planning and execution of several projects, such as thermal power plants and renewable energy projects across India – from kick-off to handover of the plant.
Key words: Personal development, Change of personality, Psychology, Guide