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Keys to Successful Project Management
By Nicki James

Successful project management requires participation from all levels of the organization, and embodies many of the same characteristics demonstrated overall in a successful company: management should support a project, and all involved should be working toward a common goal with focused objectives. In the most effective situations, the members of high-performing teams will wear many hats and display a wide range of capabilities.

Struggling organizations often display an almost draconian adherence to the fulfillment of projects and their deliverables that neither accomplish the organization’s goals and objectives, nor do they provide for thorough processes to keep a company efficient and allow the company to grow. This “at all costs” approach to project management is a detriment to the company, and illustrates a lack of awareness about the organization’s environment.

Successful project management bolsters an organization’s goals and objectives, and at its center includes a thriving project manager who possesses a well-rounded range of talents to support the business:

  • The business acumen to recommend and implement projects aligned to the company’s direction
  • The tactical expertise to understand and employ the processes required for project implementation
  • The “soft” skills to manage all responsibilities and organize the team and processes

The successful project manager will have a solid, complementary set of hard skills and soft skills, and be willing and able to exercise and hone these skills to ensure that projects are aligned to an organization’s goals, development processes, and project management practices.

The business acumen required of a successful project manager involves an in-depth knowledge of the business and a natural eagerness to learn and adapt. Knowledge breeds strong strategic skills; strong strategic skills breed success. The most effective strategies are born when a project manager has the capacity to place issues in context. Markets shift, and the successful project manager will utilize business knowledge to provide a strong balance between seeing existing projects through to completion and winning new business. Only when actionable strategies are formed can tactical processes be created to support the strategies.

Tactical skills are the means to the goals determined through strong strategic skills. Key among these are a detailed understanding of both the development and management processes, a willingness to adhere to the practice and methodologies employed by the organization, and a determination to drive this adherence across the organization and with clients. The successful project manager will display complete knowledge of and competence in the detailed work behind any practices and procedures that are inherent to the organization’s business. This includes–but is not limited to–knowing and adhering to deadlines and budgets, organizing and effectively communicating with the project team and clients, documenting accurate project information, developing quality controls, and completing project schedules.

A successful project manager must not only exhibit strength in business knowledge, strategic skills, sound tactical knowledge, and management–a successful project manager must also own and readily exercise a variety of “soft” skills:

  • Extremely detail-oriented, even when managing multiple priorities
  • Flexibility to adapt to changing environments
  • Outstanding written and oral communication skills
  • Participates thoughtfully and well as a member of the team
  • Upholds standards of integrity, commitment to strong morals and ethics
  • Willingness to take personal responsibility
  • Communicates respect for other people
  • Exercises diplomacy and visionary leadership of the project team
  • Admirable work ethic and a passion for excellence
  • High level of energy
  • Dedication to client satisfaction
  • Works well with organizational and cultural diversity
  • Possesses negotiation skills and the ability to influence teams and stakeholders

If powerful and well-rounded strategic, tactical, and interpersonal skills are fundamental keys to an organization’s overall structure, teams, and project management processes, possibilities for success are limitless.

Nicki James is a free-range project management and training professional who enthusiastically practices her trade in Austin, TX. James believes that fulfillment in one’s professional life may be found through working with logical, smart, grounded people—those who are generally remarkable all around. James works to surround herself with these types of people and wants you to, too.

James moderates Your42, a newly-launched professional collaborative blog focused on project management, training, leadership, the business of social networking, general business, whatever else is both professional and interesting—and ultimately, helping other professionals discover what they love (their “42”) through down-to-earth, plain-language posts that are both informative and realistic. Your42’s name is derived from the Ultimate Answer revealed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it may be found at http://your42.wordpress.com.

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