So much has changed in the world of work over the past few years. We have so many working challenges today: disruptive technologies, flexible working, mobile tech, social media, changing expectations of millennials, the list of changes goes on and on. So we all should ask ourselves: what skills does a project manager need in the modern world to stay relevant? Here is a list of key skills that are vital to ensuring your project is a success against the background of all this fast-moving change.
This has always been an important skill for getting any project over the finish line. But in today’s busy world, having the strength of character to bring a project to completion, with all the people this involves – the stakeholders, your team, external contractors – can be a major test of your character.
You need a deep well of willpower to bring a project to a successful conclusion and you need to bring a lot of people with you. It is a fine balance between being assertive enough to see the job through without being compared to Napoleon.
Leading by example is a great way of doing this, being professional in all you do (however difficult people may be) and making sure everyone involved understands what the aims of the project are, what success looks like and what their role is in achieving this.
There are so many ways to communicate these days, FaceTime, texts, instant messaging, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and the ever-filling email inbox. There is also face to face conversations and even the old-fashioned letter in the mail. With so many ways of keeping in touch, success in communication should be a piece of cake, right? In the real world, success in communication actually gets harder with so many alternate channels available to us all.
Whichever method of communication we select, we need to actually get the message right. What is the most appropriate way of expressing our meaning, in the clearest way? When we know exactly what we want to say, in a way which is unambiguous, expressing it through any of these channels should be easy to achieve.
From the strategic planning of your project from end-to-end to picking the least disruptive two weeks to be away from it all in Thailand, organization is a key skill for running any project successfully.
Being able to relate to people is vital. The workforce is diverse, with multi-generational teams, as well as a wide range of cultures represented in our workplace. The ability to understand what so many different people contribute to the team is crucial for any project manager.
Understanding your people is another one of those timeless skills which project managers have always needed. The major difference here is in the past most of the teams would have been made up of young to middle-aged men, being led by a middle-aged to an older man. This would have made empathy relatively easy to achieve.
The modern workplace is so much more diverse (and the better for it) and you need to know much more about the life stages of so many types of people – which is entirely achievable. I find the way to gain empathy is to get to know people; an old-fashioned skill for a modern challenge.
Ability to Adapt
Everything is changing and these changes seem to be happening faster and faster. The ability to deal with changes in a fast-moving environment is important. Any good project manager should know there are risks inherent in the world outside of our control, Being able to adapt to circumstances as they happen is key, but the ability to be objective and understand how big or small an impact a change is going to have on you and the project is going to be the difference in ensuring you adapt successfully.
Ignore the Clutter
There is so much going on these days, so much change, arriving so fast. But, the most important skill a project manager requires against this backdrop is the ability to ignore the clutter. There is so much vying for your attention, so many changes in the world of work, it is too easy to get lost in the latest social media or the empty office Friday afternoon caused by flexible working patterns.
The most important skill in all of this is to pay attention to the things which really matter. These are almost completely the basics of project management whether you managed the moon landing or the development of the smartphone. What other skills do you think are essential for managing projects today?