We asked them: Does your project experience support the growing importance of these skills? If not, how does it differ?
I advise new professionals to focus on technical skills because that will make them valuable project professionals. Having a strong project management background enables you to aim for higher positions.
It is also important to develop soft skills such as leadership and communication. Especially in projects, we deal and work with a lot of internal and external stakeholders.
Finally, every organization — whether a for-profit or not-for-profit — needs strategy and business management. And since projects drive business results, project professionals must understand business and strategic management and align projects with the organization’s goals. Otherwise, we waste a lot of time, money and resources.
Conrado Morlan, PMP, PgMP:
Yes. Organizations are looking to hire a project professional with “hybrid business-technical” experience. These types of professionals are in high demand, as organizations have had successful projects by aligning projects and strategy to achieve strategic goals and sustain a competitive advantage.
To foster individuals with this “hybrid business-technical” experience, organizations are implementing stretch assignments as part of the talent development. For example, the project manager may not have business skills, but as the project progresses, the project manager will acquire business skills through formal or on-the-job training, or through a coach or mentor. And other organizations are transferring project ownership to individuals with business acumen and mastery of soft skills. Organizations are then enrolling them in project management classes, for example.
Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP:
Technical project management skills have never been enough to run projects successfully. Leadership has always been a critical component of any successful manager’s skillset.
Strategic and business management skills are a different matter. Organizational leadership needs to ensure projects are aligned to strategic objectives. They must also ensure that the organization is capable of managing the processes around and supporting projects — from innovation and portfolio selection to developing project career paths — to generate value. There’s an African saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The same is true of projects: It takes a complete organization to achieve value from its projects.
The project manager’s role is to deliver the project “right,” and this means being aware of wider organizational implications. However, senior management’s responsibility is to make sure the right projects are being done for the right strategic reasons.
The complexity and scale of projects today demands a balanced set of skills. To be effective, project professionals need to have a 360-degree view of the technical aspects, team leadership and business impacts of projects.
As a foundation, a project manager must have some form of technical project management and be effective at leading. Since consumers receive some form of outcome from your project, strategic and business management skills are essential. The ability to translate project activities into business results requires an understanding of the business strategies of your sponsors and consumers.
At the end of the day, a project manager must provide direction on the technical aspects for the project team; fulfill the role of leader in the eyes of the sponsors; and keep in mind that the solutions you create for a consumer must have relevance to their business.
Vivek Prakash, PMP:
I see a focus on training more for technical skills than on leadership, and very little for business management skills. Lack of business management skills makes it difficult for a project manager to align projects with organizational strategies. That means a large number of strategies are not implemented successfully. Developing strategic skills helps project managers connect business objectives with project objectives.
I believe that leadership skills are the most important of the three. The project manager’s primary role is to get the work done by the team. Often pressure techniques are used, but leadership skills help project managers play the role of facilitator and create a productive environment.
In my opinion, interpersonal skills are even more important. They are the basis for acquiring leadership skills and help project managers get buy-in from other stakeholders. Therefore, developing interpersonal skills for project managers should be the top priority of any organization.
The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.