3 Important Skills for Project Managers

You know that PMI has a framework for project management skills, documented in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). But there are other skills that can complement that and accelerate your career:

  1. business process improvement
  2. managing to strategy
  3. organizational change management

One or all of these can set you apart from other project managers without these skills—and make you more successful in more advanced roles in your organization. Here’s what you need to know to determine if any would be of use to you—and how to get the knowledge you need.

Business Process Improvement
Why You Need It: More significant projects change a business process or work procedure in some way. In the future, this will be even more true as businesses move to improve productivity through new automation methods such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence.

With a deeper understanding of how process analysts complete the work, you will be better able to understand the resources needed, the business benefits, interdependencies and stakeholder needs related to your project.

How to Get the Skills: In general, you want to see what specific skills fit in the organization in which you work:

  • Determine if your company already uses one of the well-known process management methodologies such as Six Sigma, lean or other. These require the current state of the business process to be documented, then analyzed to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • If your company does have a standard methodology, then it may provide free internal training that you can complete.
  • Consider getting certified in a well-known methodology. This can be transferable to other organizations.
  • Learn to read and interpret business workflow diagrams. Process improvement projects require the heavy use of these documents in planning, requirements and design. As the project manager, you will want to make sure that you know enough to make sure that the work is being completed properly—and that risks and interdependencies with other processes have been identified.

Managing to Business Strategy
Why You Need It: Projects you manage are (or should be!) business strategy executed. This gives you the ability to see the “big picture” more easily. You can use this ability over time to build the knowledge and expertise to move into more strategic roles, in program management or departmental management.

How to Get the Skills: Depending on the organization you work in, the best way to do this might be one or more of several options:

  • You can immediately begin focusing on strategy by looking at project charters, which should have some strategy-based background (but there is much more to it).
  • See my article on how to use product, program or road map information to bolster your knowledge here.
  • Look for lunch-and-learns connected with organizational strategy or related to organizational changes connected with strategic changes.
  • See if free online internal training on corporate strategy is available (even better if it specifically for project managers).
  • Read articles about the competitive landscape of the marketplace for your industry. There should be industry magazines available online with the information you need to see what current strategy issues are and marketplace trends.
  • Complete training on technology or general business strategy from trusted sources. The basics are not difficult and can quickly be applied in your understanding of your specific corporate strategy.

Organizational Change Management
Why You Need It: This is that area of projects that includes getting people ready for a change (typically significant or disruptive) in how they work now to how they will work in the future state. For example, the change could be that roles are changing to complete work in a different way. It involves special communication, training, incentives, participation and more. The bigger the projects you want to manage, the more organizational change management becomes a necessary skill in your bag of tricks.

How to Get the Skills: There are many books on this subject, but look for those that are less detailed because you do not want to get lost in detail when you simply want to be able to work more effectively with those groups whose role it is to manage the organizational change.

  • Get a quick start by checking out articles on ProjectManagement.com. For example, check out the article series on organizational change starting here (search for organizational change so you don’t get results for project change management).
  • At this writing, I am starting a series of blog posts here on organizational change management using robotic process automation projects as examples.



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