Leadership in Project Management

For those who have been a project manager for some time understand that the qualities needed to effectively lead a project are very similar to those required to lead any team within a business. As project managers are responsible for overseeing and delivering assigned projects.  There are time Project Managers need to select the right tools and techniques for a particular job.  Manage, lead, and motivate project team members.  Providing stakeholders with and overall view of progress on all the different elements.  It is obvious to understand that effective project management requires various different sets of skills. 

There are three necessary types of skills, as presented by Robert Katz in the 1974 article titled “Skills of an Effective Administrator.”  The three categories of skills necessary for effective leadership:

  • Technical Skills
  • Human Skills
  • Conceptual Skills

Technical skills address the hands-on, direct skills necessary for accomplishing certain types of tasks.  This means having knowledge about and being proficient in a specific type of work or activity.  Technical skills include specialized competencies, analytic abilities, and the use of appropriate tools and techniques.  These kinds of skills involve hands-on ability with processes, products, and equipment. 

Human skills refer to the people skills necessary to lead and manage.  This means having knowledge about and being able to work together with others.  Good human skills mean being aware of one’s own perspective and the perspectives of others at the same time.  A skilled manager can assist group members in working cooperatively to achieve common goals. 

Conceptual skill is the ability see, and understand, the big picture.  It is knowing how all of the various parts of an operation or organization work together and affect each other.  A leader with conceptual skills works easily with hypothetical notions and abstraction.  This kind of capability is necessary in creating and articulating a vision and strategic plan for an organization. 

How are these skills applied in Project Management when delivering projects of different types? In project management, technical skills can be further divided into two categories; technical skills required to understand and manage the project and the actual technical skills of project management itself.  The Technical skills required to address the “How To” details the discipline area a project is involved with.  For example, if the project at hand is to develop software applications, then the project manager should have a certain level of understanding for software development.  If it involves implementing new medical processes and procedures, the PM should have some medical knowledge.  Even when working with subject matter experts as a part of a project team, a project manager needs to have a base level of knowledge in order to effectively manage the project, this to have a comprehension of project delivery time frames, so there is a level of understanding on what is required to deliver, and when a Project Manager has no fundamental understanding on the technicality, the team would quickly understand this and undermine time frames.

Technical skills of project management address the ability to utilize project management tools and techniques.  These are the hands-on skills of project management and involve everything from scheduling, to planning, to execution, monitoring and controlling, resource analysis, and all of the other skills need to successfully deliver projects. 

The human skills, is an important factor in any project, the way we communicate, both written, verbal and listening within the team, stakeholders, customers and the business as a whole. Human skills are the various abilities in dealing with the people involved in projects.  Sometimes this involves negotiating.  In other cases, it means acting as a motivator.  The vast majority of projects involve more than one person in some way, so human skills are a central part of managing most projects. 

Projects involve a lot of moving parts.  Different areas, both inside and outside of a project organization, need to be connected and coordinated in order for projects to run smoothly and achieve success.  Schedules need to be coordinated with available resources, budgets need to be maintained, and equipment and resources need to be procured.  The list of items that come together goes on and on.  In technical terms, this all refers to the knowledge area of Project Integration Management.  A skilled project manager needs to understand the different parts of the project.  They need to understand how to coordinate, communicate, and integrate all of the interconnected elements. 

There are as many variations of the three skills in practice as there are projects. Identifying the needs of each project requirements and skill area can be a good starting point when matching a project to the project manager.  For highly technically oriented projects such as construction, biomedical, engineering, and ICT projects, those with the necessary specialized skills in these areas should be considered for engagement.  For wide ranging projects that involve sweeping changes for large organizations, higher levels of administrative and conceptual skills are necessary and so project managers with these skills should, therefore, be selected. 

Each skill is as important as the other, so if there is an aspect of the skill which is not a project manager’s strong point, then it is a good idea to focus on it, build up on that skill’s shortfall so there is more selection on assignment opportunities. Also, as skill shortfalls are developed in all three skill areas, the better we will be at managing projects of all types. 

During this time of lock down, it may be a consideration to develop any skill shortfalls and any further professional development.

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