Project Management Without Borders

3 Skills That Extend Across Methodologies

Agile, scrum, Six Sigma teams can be built on a wide range of project management methodologies, and many organizations can become so entrenched in how they operate that project leaders end up with highly specific skills that may not be applicable to other strategies. This can be problematic on three key levels:

  • It limits career flexibility for project managers highly skilled in one area, but without flexibility to work in a variety of project environments.
  • It can leave a business stuck determining how to run a project based solely on what’s been done in the past instead of what makes the most sense for the initiative.
  • It shrinks the potential pool of qualified project management candidates based on which methodologies they’ve worked with, something that could cause a company to miss out on otherwise skilled professionals.

Being able to match projects to the work strategy that makes the most sense for their specific needs can be invaluable, but it is only possible if project managers have a diverse set of big picture leadership skills needed to work effectively in diverse team environments. Three abilities that project managers should develop if they hope to work effectively across diverse methodologies are:

1. Communication

The ability to communicate well is often bandied about as a key skill for project managers, but what doesn’t get as much discussion is exactly what it means to be a good communicator as a PM. Key communication skills that a project manager needs regardless of which methodology he is working within include:

  • Being able to provide actionable, concise feedback to team members this includes offering constructive criticism or dealing with conflicts.
  • Understanding how different people communicate. Introverted, extroverted, logical, abstract thinker and creative type may all be attributes used to describe different types of people, but project managers must be aware of how these varying personalities communicate and be able to not only reach all of them effectively, but also get them to work together.
  • Considering language used by individuals in different job roles. A developer is likely going to use very different vocabulary than a business leader. These stakeholders will interpret terminology differently, and PMs need to be able to ensure they can communicate equally well with individuals from different user groups.
  • Listening. Talking is only half the battle and maybe even less when it comes to communication. Learning to read people, truly pay attention and get them to trust you as a good listener is invaluable as you work to keep your fingers on the pulse of a project.

2. Collaboration

Many people think of being able to communicate and collaborate in a business team as simply dividing tasks between users in a coherent way, setting clear expectations between those individuals and frequently checking up on the status of these sub projects to ensure everybody is carrying their own weight. Dividing and conquering projects in this way is one method of collaboration, but it is only half the battle.

Dividing work can get tasks done more quickly than an individual would perform on his own, but it won’t necessarily be handled better. A good team doesn’t just split tasks evenly, it will combine the various skills and capabilities of the team to create a final product that is better than the sum of the individual parts. Collaboration entails:

  • Getting people to work in the team’s best interest and not just seek personal gain.
  • Fostering an environment in which people can disagree and debate in healthy, professional ways.
  • Being able to resolve conflicts as they emerge.
  • Identifying tasks that are best handled by individuals and which should be dealt with by the whole team.
  • Creating enough authority to make final decisions.

These skills add up to enable teams to work together as a unit, not just a collection of individuals. PMs that can fuel collaboration are invaluable regardless of the operational methodology being used.

3. Change Management

Change is likely going to be a part of a project regardless of what strategy you are using to govern the initiative. Shifts in schedule, alterations to team dynamics, adjustments to project specifications and a wide range of similar issues can force project managers to change the work being performed on a project at any time. This need for change is a near constant, and there isn’t a PM methodology that will avoid it. Instead, PMs must learn how to manage change, with key competencies in this area being:

  • Foreseeing potential problems before they arise to smooth any rough patches.
  • Convincing employees to get on board with adjustments.
  • Understanding both business and technical sides of projects to make it easier to fully analyze changes.
  • Performing risk assessments.
  • Assessing any regulatory issues that may come up as project changes lead to shifts in purpose or function.

Any change can bring about as many challenges as setting up a project in the first place, but with the added complexity of having users feel like they are having the rug pulled out from under them if they’ve been working toward one goal for a long time only to have a change roll around.

Preparing for Anything

Technology projects increasingly must drive business success, not just support it. The result is a situation in which nuanced project management capabilities are especially essential to accelerate innovation while reducing risk.

Companies that train their project managers in core skills like these instead of focusing heavily on specific methodologies can put themselves in the best possible position for success. Learning Tree courses for project management professionals can ensure your teams have the skills they need to support flexible operational models.

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