Tag: Project Management

Best Project Manager Interview Questions

Best Project Manager Interview Questions

Before you can plan, execute and successfully complete a project, you must hire a project manager to manage it. A project manager is a difficult position to fill. As they need a wide range of skills, knowledge of methodologies and mastery of communication? Whether you’re interviewing candidates, or you’re the one seeking a new job, you need to see our Top 21 Project Manager Interview Questions.

You’ll need behavioral- and scenario-based questions and interview techniques such as the star method to gather information about the candidates’ leadership skills, management style, soft and hard skills.

It’s hard to find a person who is both comfortable with the project management processes and adept at motivating team members to do their best. It feels as if you might have to employ a squad of workers to handle every aspect of project management, such as planning, scheduling, monitoring, tracking and more.

But, there are individuals who have the breadth of knowledge and experience necessary using project management methods to successfully lead projects. They’re experts in many things, such as using project management tools but not arrogantly so, in that they know the power of collaboration and can have the communication skills to delegate work to focus on where their attention is needed most.

So, how do you find a project manager who fits both the criteria of the job and the culture of your organization? Hiring a project manager, it’s more than just finding candidates that match the job description. To gather all the information needed from them, HR professionals use different interviewing techniques. Here are some of the best project manager interview questions that will help you find the best talent for your projects. They’re also helpful if you want to learn how to prepare for a project manager interview.

Behavioral Interview Questions

This type of interview question asks for events that happened in the past. The purpose of these project manager interview questions is to get an idea of how the project manager has acted in the past, and how it was applied in their project management knowledge and skills to solve real-life problems.

Star Method

The star method is an interviewing technique that consists in making behavioral interview questions and answering them in a structured manner. STAR stands for (situation, task, action, result). So when you ask a project manager a behavioral question, they’ll tell you about the situation or task they had to solve, the actions taken and the results obtained. The purpose of the star method is to provide the whole picture of events from the project management experience of candidates. It helps gather all the information possible and capture details that could be missed otherwise.

Scenario-Based Interview Questions

The purpose of scenario-based interview questions is to ask project manager candidates how they would respond to hypothetical project management scenarios. Here you can understand the thinking process of your project managers and look into their problem-solving skills, management style, knowledge of project management methods and tools, etc.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are those skills that can be taught to an individual and are specific and measurable. They’re often described in the job description and are an important part of the hiring process. Hard skills are what make someone capable of executing a job. Some examples of hard skills to look for in the project management interview process are:

  • Working knowledge of project management tools
  • Working knowledge of project management software
  • Working knowledge of project management processes
  • Project planning
  • Budget management
  • Risk management
  • Time management
  • Task management

Soft Skills

Soft skills are those that are inherent to an individual. They’re all the traits and interpersonal skills that make a project manager unique. These skills describe the personality of the project manager. Some examples include:

  • Leadership skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Work ethic

Project Management Experience

As in any hiring process, you need to ensure that the project manager candidates have the experience you’re looking for. It’s important to dig into their project management experience by asking behavioral project manager interview questions. Here you’ll want to ask if they have worked in your industry before, what has been their most successful project, among other things.

Project Management Experience Questions

1. What’s your background, personally and professionally?

It’s important to get a snapshot of the applicant to bring their project manager resume into sharper focus. Knowing a bit about their life story can inform about their soft skills and how they might respond to issues at work, and whether they will fit into the corporate culture. The same goes for their project management experience. Staying at a single job for a long time can be either bad or good for project managers, but you won’t know until you put their choice into context.

2. Have you worked in this industry before?

Does the candidate have project management experience in your industry? That’s important because they might excel at the project management methods your company uses, or may have the right risk management skills to manage your projects. If they don’t, it’s not a game-closer. Much of project management is the same from industry to industry. Perhaps they have strong project management skills that relate to your industry, such as project management software skills even if they don’t have direct experience. However, if they do have experience in your field, that’s a plus, so ask how those relevant projects panned out. Note how confidently they answer behavioral interview questions. You want an authentic person who is comfortable in the position.

3. Do you have budget management experience?

It helps to drill down into specific aspects of the project management experience of your candidates. Naturally, if the candidate has specific skills they’ll be briefly sketched in the resume, but here’s your opportunity to get a deeper sense of where they stand in terms of their experience with project management processes such as budget management. Project managers are known as planners. They create a project schedule and lead teams to success. But there’s often money involved, so they better know how to handle a project budget.

4. Have you managed remote teams?

Not all projects are executed under one roof and remote teams are very common. With more dynamic project management tools and a global workforce to choose from, many project managers might never meet the members of their team, at least in person, but they’ll be able to work together using project management software. Then there are the necessary resources that will be outsourced, which involves a different resource management technique than when working with employees. Knowing how they have managed people and resources can help you get an overview of their leadership skills and be a crucial point in your decision to hire or not to hire.

5. How did your last project end?

This question is about discovering any lessons they learned from that project. Everything about project management is a learning experience, and each project offers lessons from which a good project manager grows.

6. How do you prioritize tasks on a project?

Task management is important. There’s going to be more work in a day than can be accomplished, so any good project manager is going to have to determine what is crucial and what could be left undone if necessary. It will prove interesting and informative to see how the candidate makes these time management and task management decisions.

7. How do you seek help outside of the project team?

This project manager interview question gives you information about the leadership and communication skills of your project manager candidate. Some project managers are going to think you want a person who is wholly independent and pulls from an inner reservoir. Fair enough. But more resourceful is the project manager who knows when they’re over their head and asks for help from a mentor or a network of professionals.

8. Do you delegate?

They are better! The last thing you want is a project manager who carries everything on their shoulders. That’s nuts. But this is a bit of a trick question or at least one that has an implicit question embedded in it. What you really want to know is not whether they delegate, but how they delegate work to their team members. This is a great way to weed out the micromanagers. That doesn’t mean a project manager is absent from the process. Project management software has features to keep them aware of what their team is doing but not in the way.

Behavioural Interview Questions

1. What was a challenging project, and how did you manage it?

This behavioral question takes the conversation from the theoretical to the practical. You can see how the project managers responded to real-life problems, which helps you determine how they would manage projects at your organization. This question also provides a sense of the person’s project management experience, such as how they lead teams and deal with conflicts. By asking about a challenging project, you can see how they apply their hard and soft skills when pushed to their limits and beyond.

2. How do you manage team members that are not working to their full potential?

Sometimes, no matter how much due diligence you put into assembling a skilled and experienced project team, someone under performs or creates conflicts. While the project is rolling, you don’t have time to stop and tweak your team. Rather, the project manager must use problem-solving techniques and communication skills to deal with the problem. This comes up with even the best project team, so any capable project manager would know how to nip under performance in the bud.

3. How do you deal when you’re overwhelmed or under performing?

It’s easy to forget that project managers are people, too. They are hired to perform project management processes and lead a project to success, but they can suffer the same setbacks as anyone on the team over the course of the project life cycle. The difference between a good and great project manager is the ability to monitor oneself and respond proactively to any drop-offs in performance.

4. How do you work with customers, sponsors and stakeholders?

Even project managers have to answer to someone. Responding to executives, project sponsors and stakeholders requires a different approach than the one they would use with teams and vendors. Part of their duties includes managing stakeholders who hold a position of authority over the project manager. That takes a subtle touch.

5. What’s your leadership style?

Talking about managing a project will inevitably lead to a discussion of leadership style. There are many ways to lead, and all have their pluses and minuses. Depending on the project, a project manager might have to pick and choose how they lead, ranging from a top-down approach to servant leadership. See how well-versed they are on leadership techniques and how they apply them to project management.

6. What’s your communication style?

This is another classic project management interview question that directly stems from asking about managing projects and leadership. A project manager is nothing if they have poor communication skills. They need to be able to speak to team members, stakeholders, vendors, etc. Each group will need a slightly different approach. Stakeholders want the broad strokes about the project management plan, while team members will need more detail. If a project manager can’t clearly communicate, the project is doomed before it has begun. Being a good communicator is only the start. Project management software helps you better target that communication with your team and stakeholders.

7. How do you know the project is off-track?

Every project hits a snag along the way, but not every project manager is aware of that delay until the project budget or project schedule is affected. The ability to monitor and track the progress of a project and tell immediately when it’s not meeting the benchmarks you set in the project planning phase is perhaps the most important duty of a project manager. Then it’s also important to see if the project manager candidates have experience implementing a risk management plan to mitigate risks and keep projects on budget and schedule.

8. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on a project?

Everyone makes mistakes; character is defined by how you deal with them. This project management interview question will allow you to first gauge the candidate’s honesty. If they say that they’ve never made a mistake, you can rest assured that they’re not being truthful and their resume can go into the circular file. However, when they tell you about the mistake they’ve made, note if they take responsibility for it (that will reveal their level of maturity) and, of course, how they resolved it.

9. How do you gain agreement with teams?

Where there are people, there are conflicts, and even the best projects have people problems. Good teams collaborate and trust one another. If there’s a problem between two or more project team members, it must be resolved quickly. But this can also apply to stakeholders, vendors, etc. A project manager is a bit of a psychologist who must know how to resolve conflicts quickly.

Scenario-Based Interview Questions

1. If the project is not adhering to schedule, how do you get it back on track?

Knowing that a project is not keeping to its schedule is only as important as being able to get the project back on track. Once a project manager is aware of the discrepancy between the actual project schedule and the schedule baseline estimated in the project plan, they need to take action, such as project crashing or fast tracking. Any project manager worth hiring will be able to answer this with practical specifics. On these types of questions, it’s best to answer with the STAR method.

2. What’s your ideal project?

Try to get them to answer honestly. It will let you know what sort of projects they prefer to work on. In doing so you’ll get a better feel for what kind of project management methodology excites them and maybe even what they excel at. This can help you place the project manager with the right project, or help them adapt to the project team you’re hiring them to manage.

Hard Skills Interview Questions

1. What project management software do you prefer?

A project manager needs project management tools to plan, monitor and report on the project. There are many, from simple to more complex. This question reveals first how up-to-date the candidate is regarding software and project management tools. Additionally, it provides a picture of what tools and processes they use to manage a project. Most project managers heavily rely on Gantt charts when it comes to project planning and scheduling. Managers can create dependencies, add milestones, assign tasks, and manage workload and more— all from one screen. Any project manager you hire would appreciate the power of our planning tools.

2. What’s your preferred project management methodology?

There are almost as many ways to manage a project as there are projects. From traditional methods like waterfall to hybrid methodologies, you want a project manager who understands the many ways to work. And more importantly, can they use the project management methodology that best suits the work at hand?

It’s no secret how important a job interview is. Companies, lives and projects are forever shaped by how a job interview goes. Stakeholders usually ask for broad strokes to make sure the project is going well, but sometimes they want more detail. Teams are a project’s most valuable resource. Let us know how you prepare for interviews. All the best on your project management journey.

Business Trends to Watch in 2022

Business trends in 2022

Understanding upcoming trends in 2022 help with refocus personal development. Some trends have been identified and there is an expectation organizations will continue to  experience growth in Project Management, Business Analysis, Agile, Data Science, and Leadership in the year ahead. Overall, the theme of working remotely comes through loud and clear and is expected to impact almost every area.

Project Managers as Project Leaders, The recognition that project managers are both leaders and managers is not new, but the need for the leadership aspect of the role has intensified in the last couple of years and will continue to do so in 2022. In fact, more organizations are using the title project leader as opposed to project manager.

The technical aspects of the job such as scheduling, budgeting, and tracking haven’t been eliminated, but the need for skills like influencing, facilitating, communicating and other “soft” skills associated with the PM as leader has become paramount. Project managers as leaders are going to continue to be challenged in 2022 with distributed teams and all the distractions of ever-changing global and work environments. Leading the team and engaging stakeholders to sustain buy-in is going to continue to be job one for effective PMs in 2022.

Expect to see a continued increase in the use of project management tools beyond the standard Microsoft Office suite. Whether because people are working remotely, tools have become more cost effective, or tools have become more accessible and easier to use, more organizations using PM-specific tools with a wider variety of tools, as well.

At first this may seem contradictory to the previous trend of project leadership getting emphasized over project management; tools are not generally used for the leadership aspects of the PM role. Whatever the reason, 2022 will be a robust year for PM tool implementation.

There should be stronger facilitation and communication skills for remote business analysts. This means getting better at communicating and facilitating in a virtual environment. Learn how to build trust when unable to directly “see” stakeholders daily. The ability to virtually facilitate, elicit inclusive requirements and not just those from a few vocal stakeholders. Learn to creatively collaborate with team members, colleagues, and key stakeholders to ensure their buy-in.

BAs need to think about communicating and facilitating with more intention. This calls for mindful facilitation as opposed to simply the ability to use Microsoft Teams, Slack, or other communication platforms. More BAs should focus on learning how to create safe, trust-laden, and collaborative environments within which stakeholders readily share information in a world that has been changed forever.

Digital transformation has been a trend for some years, and it is still going full steam ahead however has tended to fail because;

  • NOT understanding the business problem.
  • NOT determining success criteria so organizations have no way of knowing if the initiative has been successful because there was not a shared understanding of what success looked like.
  • NOT realizing that digital transformation introduces cultural changes in the organization.

Because of these failures, organizations moving toward digital transformation will rely more on business analysis capabilities to effectively address root causes. BAs will be used on digital transformation initiatives to ensure the business problem or opportunity has been fully analysed and understood, to verify that the organization is ready to adopt the new culture, and to identify overall success measures as well as identifying smaller, incremental success measures that can be measured throughout the project.

These efforts will also require a business analyst’s in-depth knowledge of agile business analysis approaches, tools, and techniques that will be critical as organizations strive to become more agile in their ability to respond to customers and competitors.

It can be argued that the COVID 19 pandemic did more to transform the world of work than any document, framework, certification approach or technology. One of the lasting impacts of the pandemic is that distributed teams are here to stay. Product development team members and their leaders will need to permanently adjust to working in a distributed fashion.

While many still share the perception that all Agile frameworks require co-located teams, technology has advanced to the point where a team adopting a framework doesn’t need to all be in the same location. Continued discipline, particularly in the area of communication and team working together agreements, will be required as teams shift from distributed work by necessity to distributed work by choice.

The marketplace continues to see the emergence and growth of a number of Agile scaling frameworks. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Scrum at Scale (S@S) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) are just a few of the prominent entries in this space. Next year will see organizations continue to adopt these frameworks as they seek to realize the benefits of being more responsive to change at a global level.

Increasing application of artificial intelligence and reinforcement learning is one of the trends that will change the world. This past year certainly validates that sentiment, and 2022 will continue to see evidence of this powerful trend. The application of AI and reinforcement learning will definitely be a trend to keep an eye on, as the progress has increased exponentially, especially with the huge strides made in Natural Language Processing.

These are just a few business trends identified and we are sure there are more on the horizon. Let us know what you think the business trends will be in 2022, what will influence the organisational landscape in the year to come. Let us know your thoughts we would like to hear from you, all the best on your project management journey.

Project Management and performance, attention and focus

Project Management and performance, attention and focus

The way you and your team pay attention and focus is crucial to achieving sustained optimal performance, especially when delivering projects. Optimal performance is sustainably achieving goals efficiently and effectively, to the best of your ability within current conditions. 

To perform, individuals, teams, and organizations manage and apply situation specific technical and administrative skills, project, program, and process management, supported by relationship capabilities like communications, conflict management, decision making, and expectations management.

These capabilities rely on attention and a realistic perspective informed by positive values like objectivity and servant leadership. A realistic perspective realizes that change is inevitable and that there is uncertainty because we live and work in a complex system.

In particular the attention to detail, which is needed when running projects and teams. There are of course other aspects such as perspective and values which are equally important; however this article is dealing with attention to detail

There are three finds of attention, there is;

  • Focused attention – directed to a specific object. It is concentration like shining a flashlight on an object, for example, a person in a conversation or work on a task. On an organizational level, focused attention directs resources to a specific project or process.
  • Open attention – seeing or being objectively aware of what is occurring in a broad expanse, mindful awareness. Open attention enables a stepping back from focus to be in touch with what is occurring in and around the object of focus.
  • Executive attention – deciding what within the field of open attention to attend to and what to do about it, regulating responses with awareness and discernment.

There are objects of attention, which are;

  • A project, an organization, a task, presentation, thought, sound, physical sensation, or any observable phenomena.
  • There are three modes, being: awareness of self, others, and the wider world. 
  • With self-focus, the primary objects are thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings. With other-focus, the principal objects are other people and things and their behavior.  Focus outward is diffuse open awareness without focusing on any particular object. It is seeing the big picture and disengaging from routine attentiveness to allow for creativity and exploration.

In respect to running projects the following are referenced as objects, a project is an object. It focuses an organization’s attention by dedicating human effort and other resources to create or change a product, put on an event or make a change of any kind. Effective project stakeholders are aware of the impact their actions have on their environment and the way the environment impacts the project. Executives govern to manage a portfolio of projects, avoid distractions, and choose the most effective places to focus attention.

Projects, tasks, or activities, whether performed by teams or individuals, are objects of attention. A project team focuses on the project. Teams and individuals focus on performing, attentive to the way they perform and interact, aware of what impact they are having on their environment and how their environment is affecting them, their tasks, and projects.

Focus is paramount when running projects because to lose focus, then performance suffers. Fail to be attentive to what’s going on in and around the project team and performance suffers. Other aspects are;

  • Concentration and skillful attention elicit a flow experience, being in the zone, a state of optimal performance and deep relaxation.
  • Consider what happens when sponsors or clients lose interest in a project, they once considered important. Other “interesting” things crop up to grab their attention. Resources start getting pulled away. The project manager is less able to influence some stakeholders to fulfill commitments. Performance suffers.

There will be times, depending on the complexity of the project for fatigue and distractions to get in the way.Attention is a natural capacity that varies in strength depending on one’s energy level and powers of concentration. The tired mind easily slips away from objects of focus and lacks the strength to bring focus back to the object. 

Open attention and executive function suffer because the mind is too easily drawn to the many distractions that call to it and it is too weak to return to awareness. It may seem relaxing to just go with the mental stream of thoughts, feelings, and external distractions. However, when you regularly allow yourself to flit from one thing to another as they randomly appear, you weaken your powers of concentration.

There are three things which enhance all the aspects of attention – focus, open awareness, and executive function:

  1. Strong concentration, mindfulness, and objectivity aided by minimizing distractions and managing the ones that cannot be avoided
  2. A process and systems view that recognizes the realities of interdependence, cause and effect relationships, and continuous change
  3. Values upon which to base skillful decision making.

Let the practice of consciously managing distractions seep into day to day, moment to moment experience. When you notice that your focus has slipped away, make the effort to bring it back. The more you bring your mind back to a chosen object of focus, the more you strengthen your power of concentration.

There are many exercises to strengthen your power of concentration. One is to take a few minutes a day to sit quietly and count your out-breaths from one to ten. If you lose count, start from one again. 

Cultivate relaxed concentration. Distractions will come. Congratulate yourself for noticing and going back to the counting or whatever your object of focus is. No need to strain or over think it. Your open attention notices distraction and your executive function brings you back or lets the mind wander. Let us know how you deal with attention when running projects; it would be great to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey.

Project Success needs critical skills

Project Success needs critical skills

There are critical skills needed by project managers which lead to project success. Regardless on the project being delivered or the industry, the technology used, or the methodology followed. Each of these skills requires a combination of what are commonly called hard skills with those needed to work effectively with others. These skills complement project manager’s soft skills.

A key soft skill is elicitation, the ability to ask questions which actually get the information required. Although elicitation is far more than the questions asked, it’s all about learning. Used to learn what stakeholders want, what they need, and what they expect by asking really good questions and listening.

There are several pitfalls which can make the elicitation process a challenge.

#1 – Missed Expectations

Expectations are requirements, so it is best to ask what the stakeholder’s expectation is of the final product.

#2 – People Fear The Future State.

This major pitfall is hard to overcome for many reasons. Some stakeholders are comfortable with their current state and don’t want to learn or train on the new processes and automation. Others are concerned for their jobs. Still others have a stake in the existing ways – perhaps they were part of its development or a known expert on its use. Whatever the reasons, the fear of the future state can make elicitation difficult.

#3 – The Time Trap

Due to perceived time constraints at times only high-level requirements are gathered, but we don’t have time to uncover the expectations. After the initial set of sessions, interest can wane as the difficult detailed meetings drag on.

There are some approaches which can assist with successful elicitation

Use a variety Of Elicitation Techniques

  • Process modelling. It documents how people get their jobs done. But as with all elicitation, it’s not easy. For example, one of the most difficult aspects about process requirements is that stakeholders argue over where to begin and where to end and how the processes fit together. Using different process models helps avoid this contention. Help narrow the scope of each model with the use of swim lane diagrams which help visualize how the processes fit together.
  • Data modelling. Process modelling is great, but people need information to get their work done. Data modelling helps figure out what information supports each process step. It also provides business rules and is invaluable on AI initiatives.
  • Use cases. These models help understand how stakeholders want to use the final product. They provide not only the scope, but all the functionality of the solution. And use cases, if completed thoroughly, turn into test cases.
  • Prototypes show what the final solution will look like.
  • Brainstorming yields the power of the group, while one-on-ones often reveal what stakeholders really think.

Ask Context Questions

A context question is one that surrounds the solution that is being built. This can be achieved by grouping questions into four categories;

  1. These questions relate to what’s happening outside the organization and include questions like demographics, language, weather, technology, and compliance/regulatory. These may or may not apply to the project.
  2. These pertain to how ready the organization is to accept the final product. The bigger the change, the more issues there usually are. For example, which stakeholders will be on board, which will resist the change, and what needs to be done to prepare the organization for the change?
  3. Ensure that the business problem being solved and the proposed solution align with the organization’s goals and objectives.
  4. These context questions are usually those about the current state.

Know When To Use Open-Ended, Close-Ended, And Leading Questions

Open-ended questions allow the respondents to expand their thoughts. Ask open-ended questions any time more needs to be learnt. For example, these questions are asked when beginning brainstorming an effort and when issues need to be identified.

Closed-ended questions are forced-choice questions. They have the answers embedded in the question itself, sometimes explicitly as in a survey question, or implicitly. It is best to ask closed-ended questions when stakeholders are all over the board real focus is required. For example, given all these issues identified, if there is a choice of 10, which would they be?

It is best to avoid Leading questions as they are really the opinion of the person asking the question when the aim is to obtain the stakeholders thoughts, requirements and learn what is needed.  

Effective elicitation is critical to the development of a final product to the stakeholder’s satisfaction. Elicitation is not easy. There are several pitfalls which are difficult to overcome and deliver a product those stakeholders actually like and want to use. It would be great to understand your approach to questioning and deriving information from stakeholders as we all have different approaches. All the very best on your project management journey.

Essential Project Management Skills

Essential Project Management Skills

I think it can be agreed that Project management is not an easy job. Actually its a few jobs, so project managers can be considered all-rounders, that’s not to mention including the initiation, planning, executing, controlling, and closing of a project. Adding to the complexity the project is delegated to a team, given specific goals to achieve over a defined timeline for a determined budget.

Even with the assistance of project management software, that’s a lot to ask of any one individual, but project managers have a variety of skills to get the job done. These include the technical, business and management skills you’d expect, but also a number of soft skills. Project managers aren’t only dealing with systems and processes, but also people. When you boil it down, successful team management is built on creating and maintaining strong relationships across the organization.

But that’s just one aspect of the project manager’s many-faceted job. Below we’ve collected the top 10 skills every project manager should have. There are certainly more than just the following 10, but if you have these, you have the foundation on which to build a successful career in project management.

Leadership, everyone has the potential to learn how to apply proven leadership skills and techniques. As a project manager you’re responsible not only for seeing the project through to a successful completion. This requires you to motivate and mediate when necessary. Remember that project leadership comes in different styles, one of which will suit your personality. It’s more than managing tasks; it’s managing people.

Communications really go hand-in-glove with leadership. You can’t be an effective leader if you’re not able to articulate what it is you need your team to do. But you’re not only going to be communicating with your team, you’ll need to have clear communications with everyone associated with the project, from vendors and contractors to stakeholders and customers.

Now we’re starting to get into some of the hard skill sets required of project managers, and few are as essential as knowing how to create a project schedule. The only way to achieve the goals of the project within the timeframe that has been decided on is to break down that goal into tasks on a timeline.

That’s scheduling, and it’s the heart of what a project manager does: setting up a realistic schedule and then managing the resources to keep on track so the project can be successfully concluded on time. There are many tools that can help with this process, chief among them an online Gantt chart, which provides a visual of the schedule with tasks, durations of those tasks, dependencies, and milestones.

Doing anything is a risk. Planning a project, big or small, is inherent with risk. It’s part of your job to see those issues before they become problems. Therefore, before executing the project, you have to put in the work to identify, assess, and control risk.

The more you can manage risk, the more likely your project is going to succeed. Of course, you can’t anticipate everything that might happen over the life cycle of your project. There will be unanticipated issues that arise, so you need to have a process in place to handle those when they come up.

You can’t do anything without the money to pay for it. You have created a budget. Your first job is to make sure that budget is realistic and can meet the financial needs of the project, and, secondly, controlling those costs through the execution of the project.

This is easier said than done. Unless you are lucky and work for an organization with unlimited funds, you’re going to have certain financial constraints, and more likely, be given a very tight budget. It takes a great deal of skill to figure out how to squeeze every cent out of those limited funds.

Being good at negotiation is sort of a subset of communications, but it deserves its own space. Negotiation isn’t merely haggling for the best price from a vendor or contractor, though that’s certainly part of it. Leading a project means you’re in constant negotiations.

For example, you’ll likely get demands from stakeholders that can impact the scope of a project. You’ll have to give them pushback, but diplomatically, so all parties concerned feel they’re getting what they want. Then there’s the inevitable conflicts that will arise among team members or other people involved in the project. If you’ve got strong negotiating skills you can resolve these disputes before they blow up and threaten the project.

Critical thinking is simply being as objective as you can in analysing and evaluating an issue or situation, so that you can form an unbiased judgement. It pulls you out of acting on emotions or from received knowledge, and isn’t that what a project manager must do? You’re faced with problems every day when you’re working on a project, and you want your decisions to be impartial. The only thing guiding your decision should be what’s best for the project.

Here’s another one of those technical skills that should be stamped onto the DNA of every project leader. If scheduling is bedrock to project management, then tasks are the mortar that holds everything together. There are going to be tons of these pesky little jobs for you to create, assign and manage – some of which will be dependent on others, meaning that mismanagement of this process can severely impact the success of your project.

You can look at this as making a super to-do list, which is not entirely wrong, but as you add complexity you’ll also want to add the tools to help you manage these tasks more efficiently. You’ll want features in your task management tool that fosters collaboration with your team, help you prioritize and give you instant status updates when tasks have been completed or are running behind.

Most of these skills are obvious, right? Well, they are the top 10 project management skills. But quality management is one that is often overlooked by project leaders, and it’s one that needs to get more attention. Quality management is overseeing the activities and tasks that are required to deliver a product or service at the stated level indicated in the project paperwork.

Sound familiar? It’s basically a part of your job that you might never have given a name to or worse, you’ve been neglecting in favour of meeting deadlines. Staying on schedule is important, but that schedule is pointless if it produces something that is subpar.

It’s good to have a sense of humour, you don’t have to be a comedian. That’s because a sense of humour is really about having a different perspective. It allows you to see a problem differently. Humour relieves stress for you and your team, and only when tensions are lifted can smarter actions and ideas show themselves. A sense of humour also helps with morale. You’re going to work as hard as your team, but that doesn’t mean the environment you’re working in should be stifling. You can set or at least influence the culture of the workplace, and a lighter mood rises all ships.

Nothing is solved by rushing through a project or getting frustrated when things don’t go as planned. While time is a constraint, if you speed through the process you’re going to make mistake. That’ll make you frustrated, which leads to more mishaps.

Projects take time, from research to planning, they need to be thoroughly thought through in order to run smoothly. That doesn’t mean there won’t be issues. They’re always issues. Whether it’s a change request or a team member acting up or stakeholders having grand expectations, if you don’t have patience everything will be exponentially worse.

Technology is constantly evolving. Just as you get used to one tool another takes its place and you’re back on the learning curve. True as that might be, to lock yourself in antiquated ways of doing things just because you’re used to them is a recipe for becoming antiquated yourself. Tools have migrated from the desktop to online and while this might not be what you’re used to there are myriad advantages.

Project management is a vast field with a range of skills and responsibilities. Make sure that you know which are the most important and why, before you take on a big project. Let us know your thoughts, we would like to hear from you, all the very best on your project management journey.

Going Back in Time

Going Back in Time

Lessons learnt in project management, if you could take back time, what would you do differently in your projects? Ask any project manager, lessons learnt are an essential part of any project, what happened in the last similar project that can be done here differently to make the path to success that smoother.

Regardless of how many projects completed it can be said that we’ve all made mistakes. The ability to learn from them separates the good from the not so good, you are not meant to know everything, if that was the case then you wouldn’t need to work.  Learning from mistakes, big or small will make you a better project manager. Think back to errors which occurred in your career and did it make you any better in delivering your projects?

If given the opportunity, what would you go back and tell your younger self to do differently?

The advice I’d give my younger self given the opportunity would be to be a more active listener. Active listening is vital to actually hearing what’s said. Active means fully concentrating on the speaker and what’s being said. It’s all too easy to passively listen without actually hearing what’s said – without really taking it in. Making it clear, to the speaker, that you’re actively listening is also helpful, so acknowledge the speaker. You can do this by nodding, making eye contact or adopting an attentive posture.

Stop prejudging situations. Not taking the time to talk and listen to the experts can be painful to the team and the project itself. You don’t have all the answers.

Take the time to sit with your team and make use of their knowledge. Listen to all points of view to make better, more balanced decisions. Have you considered all the angles, or are you leaning towards your favoured approach without giving others a fair say?

How successful was your last major project decision when you ignored other experts on the team?

Failure to mitigate risks is a significant failing. Risk is everywhere all the time. The ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude is usually a mistake.

Make sure nobody can say they didn’t know a particular risk was present. Ask the team to help you mitigate all risks and assign a single owner to each risk to ensure you’re mitigating all risks all the time. Not bothering to identify risks in favour of getting on with the work could leave you exposed and in a potentially awkward situation.

Don’t avoid conflict situations that need resolving, and don’t try to please everyone. When you do, everything seems fine at first, until the cracks start to appear. A truly happy project requires being straightforward and upfront with your customer, your team and other stakeholders. Tell them exactly how it is, and then work together to improve any bad situation. It never pays to sugar-coat the truth. Try not to be too optimistic, this can be avoided by being realistic.

Pitfalls are everywhere in a project and I’m sure have been encountered through the years, some are bigger deal than others. The following are pitfalls which should be avoided.

  • Not having a good project plan
  • Allowing scope creep or gold plating
  • Failing to manage expectations
  • Communicating poorly
  • Making false assumptions
  • Failing to manage risks and issues
  • Lacking a business case
  • Gathering requirements poorly

For the more experienced project managers, travel back in time – in your head – and see if what you would tell your younger self is based on something you do well today. What do you wish you’d known back then?

For the young and aspiring project managers tuning in, why not ask some experienced project managers what they wish they’d known at your age?

Ultimately, we never stop learning. And that’s exactly why all businesses should employ a ‘learn it all’ culture rather than a ‘know it all’ one. No matter where you are in your career, keep learning and keep improving. You don’t need a time machine to learn from the past. Let us know what you have learnt in your project management career, we would like to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey.