Project Management Skills – necessary or irrelevant?

Is project management part of your company’s skills offering?

Project management should be a skill that all professionals gain and maintain, however it’s a subject that divides many people. There is an ongoing debate as to whether project management is a profession or just another leadership skill.

Call me biased, but as a project management professional with a couple of decades’ experience under my belt, I’m still surprised that in this day and age people don’t see the value of project management and incorporate the specific skills as standard in their organisational development offering.

For me, project management is a skill that should be embedded in training across all organisations, big and small. For a while I’ve been on my soapbox to get people to realise the importance of project management skills for all, but I have hit a few brick walls along the way, which has surprised me.

A while back I enquired about whether project management was part of the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) curriculum, but I couldn’t get a straight answer. Maybe they think that management and leadership skills cover all that is needed to deliver successful projects or maybe they think it is only relevant to people with “Project Manager” in their job title? Either way they are wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, there are similarities between standard skills and those required for project management, such as leadership and influencing skills, being able to communicate, present and negotiate, as well as managing budgets and writing reports, but what makes project management different?

As a project manager you may find that you manage a team not under your direct line management. It might be a part-time team that dips in and out, where you work with temporary team members as and when their input is needed throughout the project. You may even manage someone more senior than yourself. A project hierarchy often bears no relationship to the normal organisational hierarchy which can be difficult for some people to handle.

Within a project team, you may find that for other members it’s not their only project or not part of their standard thread of work and therefore isn’t a priority. Quite often projects cut across different areas of an organisation. You might be setting up a new IT system, for example, which would require budget input from the finance team and the IT team to implement the work. Project management is all about cross communication within an organisation and having the ability to appreciate different priorities across the team.

Project management is also all about handling risk. Usually project risk management is new to people and seen more as health and safety priority, but it’s not the same and often isn’t included as a standard management tool, and it should be.

Agreeing project boundaries is also crucial. If you don’t set them out from the outset, the project will fail. A skilled project manager can help keep projects tight and streamlined.

Project management skills are about delivering change into an organisation, and, as many people are now realising, change is never ending. This means that more and more people are getting involved in project type work and therefore need the relevant skills to deliver this type of work efficiently and effectively.

Project management is important to all organisations, more than they realise. All organisations should incorporate project management training at all levels as part of standard staff development.  An increasing amount of money is spent on projects, and by having the right project management skills within an organisation they can ensure that projects are carried out on time, within budget and delivering the desired outcomes.

So consider embedding project management skills into your training offering across the whole organisation. Upskilling employees both new and old with project management capabilities will not only enhance your business and drive forward projects, but could also save you money through more efficient and streamlined working.