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Why project management skills matter

So you think you’re not a project manager?

Lecturer Dr Alec Waterworth explains why project management skills are important for every role – whether or not you have it in your job title.

A common pushback from some of the executives I teach when I first introduce them to Project Management is “that’s not relevant to me, I’m not a project manager”.

I teach a mixed cohort of participants in executive education. They come from public and private sector organisations of all shapes and sizes and have varying roles and responsibilities.

Many of them aren’t called project managers, or they don’t recognise their work as ‘projects’, so this reaction is understandable.

It’s my mission to change their minds. I work hard to win them over and to explain how key project management skills can be applied in every area of work – with benefits for the individual and the organisation.

A universal skill

Project management is really just another way of talking about change management, and that’s something we all have to deal with at work and in our everyday lives. It’s a universal skill.

Let’s take a closer look at what project management skills are.

Project management is about maximising your chances of success by understanding the different factors than can help or hinder you in reaching a desired outcome.

From people to politics, resources to risk management, there are many elements to consider, and it is made up of both soft and hard skills. And you don’t have to be managing a multi-million pound building project to benefit from this approach.

When I’m teaching, I ask delegates to nominate a project – real or imagined – for the group to work on through a session.

Suggestions are often workplace projects – for example, the launch of a new marketing programme – but domestic projects come up too, such as converting a campervan or conducting home renovations.

Whatever the size of the project, many of the same tools and techniques can be applied.

Why project management matters

What are the key benefits of good project management? In a nutshell, it:

• Reduces risk by defining a clear plan and a structured approach
• Cuts costs and improves success rates
• Encourages teamwork – building trust and co-operation within an organisation
• Ensures that organisations learn from success and failure

To fully understand the benefits, it can be useful to flip the topic on its head and think about what happens when projects go wrong.

We’ve all been involved in projects that haven’t worked, feeling the frustration of time and effort wasted and the disappointment of a goal not achieved.

When looking at the root causes, you will inevitably come back to a failure within the project management. Poor communication is often the main culprit, along with setting impossible expectations or changing the scope halfway through.

And if you don’t properly gather the requirements for a project right at the start – in a clear and accurate way – then the problems will start to stack up later down the line.

Conclusion

As I spend more time with the executives I work with, I begin to see a change of heart as those who don’t identify as project managers start to appreciate the wider value of project management tools and techniques.

These skills are highly valued by employers and they can also make work more satisfying for individuals and teams, as well as delivering huge benefits at an organisational level.

If you’d like to find out more, please check out our Executive Education webpage.

Disclaimer
Blog posts give the views of the author, and are not necessarily those of Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.

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