In a world that will have more and more projects, the demand of strong project management competencies is increasing by the hour. Just by searching on LinkedIn, it is clear that more and more job descriptions require sound project management skills and experience. I have grouped the main attributes of a Modern Project Manager needed to excel in the project-driven world into five categories.
5 Attributes of a Modern Project Manager
1. Essential Skills
These skills are the hard-technical areas of project management and agile methods, mostly around a solid definition of a project and a change initiative. A good project manager should be able to use the available tools and techniques to determine the rationale and business case of a project. They should be able to work with key contributors and partners in defining the scope. Everyone can make a plan, but very few can make a well-defined and precise plan. It requires a good understanding of the details – analytical skills – as well as the overall picture – strategic sills.
2. Technical Expertise
These competencies give the project manager credibility among the team and the project stakeholders. They help the leader to have a minimum understanding of the important technical aspects of the project, and provide the ability to communicate in the language of the technicians. A certain level of understanding, enough to challenge the teams, is enough. For example, if the project is to implement a new performance monitoring application, the project leader should take the time to comprehend some of the technical aspects of the software.
3. Strategic Acumen
Develop a good understanding of the environment in which the project will be implemented. The project manager should have a minimum understanding of the business, its purpose, its strategy and goals, its main products or services, its key competitors and its main challenges. Being able to connect the project outcomes and purpose to concrete business challenges and priorities is essential for project buy-in and success. Most of the stakeholders, including senior management, will be more supportive towards the project and the project leader whenever that connection is made.
4. Leadership Skills
The increased speed of change, the higher complexity, the overlapping priorities, the conflicting objectives, the culture of searching for a consensus, the multiple generations now working at the same time – all these important elements make the implementation of projects much harder than in the past. Managerial skills were mostly enough then. But today, management skills are not enough; project managers have to evolve towards project leadership.
They have to be able to provide direction; communicate progress and changes; evaluate, develop and motivate staff; deal effectively with people without having authority by motivating them (working in a matrix); confront and challenge; engage the project sponsor and senior leadership; understand different cultures and how to leverage from them; manage and persuade multiple stakeholders, sometimes ones who are against the project; build bridges across the organization (which will often be silo driven and scarce in resources); create a high-performing team; and dedicate enough time to develop and coach team members.
Project managers are expected to have strong ethics and personal values. Leadership is a relationship between people. Therefore, the ability to ethically influence others is a major determination of effective leaders.
Leaders are often on the spotlight and become role models for the team members and the organization. In the project-driven world, there is less room for hiding and mismanagement, as projects and their implementation tend to be very visible and to require quick thinking.
Ethics, motivation to act as a role model and developing a plan of action are key aspects that positively affect leadership and a project’s outcome. When ethics and values are made a priority and respected, it will have a positive effect on leadership.
In essence, the project-driven world, where robots and artificial intelligence will do most of the routine and administrative jobs, and a large proportion of the expert jobs, will require a significant shift from hyper-specialization to generalization, from technical expertise to facilitator and from manager to leader. These are skills not only needed by project managers, but they should be developed by every employee, combining traditional with agile project management concepts, focusing on team collaboration and value creation. Senior leaders should be an integral part of the new capabilities development plan, they plan a crucial role not only as project sponsors but also in selecting, prioritizing, and allocating resources to projects.
This is a unique opportunity for professionals in the project world to lead this unprecedented challenge and help organizations to adapt to our world driven by change.