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It’s all about project management, isn’t it? To drive business results, most general managers juggle numerous projects with varying amplitudes, durations and timelines, team members and impact areas. And as your career progresses, successful project management… well it begets more project management of bigger projects with more global implications. If you’re ambitious, this prospect is exhilarating. But no matter how big or small the projects you manage are, the same project management skills will bring you success.
Here are four proven project management skills for success, along with some insights from IMD Business School, a leading international business school based in Lausanne, Switzerland and Singapore. IMD has been ranked first in open programs by the Financial Times seven years in a row (2012-2018).
It all starts with a blueprint. The project management plan you learned about in B-school may seem like a boring place to start this article, but developing and using it properly serves a purpose. It will guide and organize your project so that you can see the goals and the way to get there clearly from the outset. Now of course, if a project plan is just a figurative piece of paper, it won’t mean much. It is the execution that really counts.
Your project plan style won’t be identical to someone else’s, but let’s take a look at typical components to understand the purpose of each:
All the planning and strategy in the world are useless in project management if you can’t lead your team. One thing to keep in mind, especially if you are not sure of your leadership skills is that leadership is very much a learnable project management skill. Because each person’s leadership style is entirely unique, good leadership training should aim to bring out what is in you, not impose a set of rules. Self-awareness and leadership coaching are helpful devices to enable you to become sensitive to your own leadership style – feel your leadership. Leadership coaching exercises give you a safe environment to test out your abilities with impartial, expert feedback from coaches.
You count on people to make your project happen, and what you do will affect various people in varying ways. And people can be funny, emotional creatures, which is why stakeholder management is a major project management skill.
But who are your stakeholders? Some of your project’s stakeholders may surprise you – and those are sometimes the most important ones. Not necessarily because they are “big” but because simple forethought, some good communication (and possibly a judicious give-way or two) can keep things from spinning out of control. Consider the ridiculousness, expense (and probably heartache) of building projects that have to be diverted around homeowners who won’t sell. There’s a word for this: nail houses.
Let’s refresh on the steps to good stakeholder management:
Your building is built. The companies have merged. The product has launched. In short, whatever project you were managing is now considered done or at least at a stop-point. You are ready to move on to the next project or, likely, turn your attention to the myriad of other projects on your plate. But wait! Remember the measurables you put in your project management plan to evaluate the success or failure or somewhere-in-between of your project? Don’t skip that step. Aside from marking a conclusion to the project or the transition to its next phase, this step will give you valuable learning and insights for other projects you take on – it’s a rich time for growing your project management skills.
Project management skills rest on a combination of technical skills – planning and outlining, following through, and evaluation – and emotional skills – leadership, stakeholder engagement and communication. External factors will always impact project outcomes, but if you learn to strengthen your project management skills on both sides of the equation, you are well on your way to enjoying the personal, professional and enterprise benefits of repeated project management success.
IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland and Singapore has been ranked first in open programs by the Financial Times seven years in a row (2012-2018). IMD has been training global leaders for more than 70 years.
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