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The Top Skill to Hone for the Upcoming Decade

Project management!

You should implement the skills that make up project management as a part of your daily life.  You do not need a project management title to take advantage of the subskills used.  When you master these skills, you will improve your performance in the workplace and make your promotions easier for others to justify.

Why is project management so important?

Almost Everything Performed in Business is Driven by Projects

Amazon Example

Amazon delivers a huge array of products quickly to its customers.  While their processes for delivering the products are ongoing operational activities, it did not start out that way.  Before ongoing operational activities can take place, Amazon needed to complete projects for building the infrastructure (software, fulfillment facilities, conveyor belts, building permitting, etc.).  These major endeavors require project management to complete within a timeframe, capital expenditure, and a define scope.  Once the fulfillment facility is built, then ongoing operations take over.  As Amazon grows, they will implement more projects to support their strategic goals.

On a Basic Level

When we talk about projects, we are not always discussing major endeavors.  Many projects completed in the business world take less than a year to complete.  Some projects only take a few weeks.

Project Management Defines a Plan and Controls Chaos

Most people will use Google Maps to help navigate to a new location rather than drive around hoping they will find their destination. 

Project managers work with stakeholders and resources to ensure resource availability.  Planning is critical for success by scheduling resources when they are available at the time they are required.

With all projects, risks potentially derail the best plans.  Project management involves identifying risks, developing a plan on how to deal with those risks, and monitoring the project for new risks. 

Manages Resources Efficiently

I remember watching a home improvement show where a backyard was getting renovated.  One of the requirements for the job involved pouring a concrete slab.  The landscaping team failed to manage their time and the cement truck arrived at their scheduled time.  They asked if the cement could be delivered a much later date.  The driver said, “If I can’t pour this cement in the next hour, then you will be buying me a new truck.”  The landscapers put all hands-on deck to get the area cleared for the pouring.

Managing the resources efficiently reduces risk of project delays or cost increases.  Additionally, efficiency work leads to happier employees.  People can handle higher stress situations for a short duration.  In the long run, employees will burn out, drop their productivity levels, and morale lowers.

Nobody Wants to Fail

Projects increase the value of the organization and utilize capital to implement.  A common misconception is that companies have an unlimited supply of funds and profits to draw from.  Companies often do not have an endless supply of capital.  In fact, companies borrow money through stock and bond issuances to bring money into the organization if banks do not offer favorable lending terms.  They need to build up their “savings” accounts for a rainy day.  As a result, they prioritize which projects to complete. 

Soft Skills for Success

A good project manager encompasses the most important soft skills that apply to nearly every profession and industry. 

Negotiation

Negotiation is one of the most underutilized skills that everyone needs to develop.  We negotiate everything! 

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know, what do you want?”

Repeat until someone dies of hunger.

“I want Chinese”

“We had that last week, let’s do Thai!”

“Ok!”

The goal of a successful negotiation is for both parties to end with a win-win resolution. 

Conflict Resolution

Conflict is a difference of opinion and when it comes to the workplace, you will see so many different opinions offered.  The way to succeed in the workplace is to manage those different opinions.  One of the most important skill you will need to use with conflict resolution is negotiation.  When you collaborate with others’ differing opinions, you can guide people to develop a collaborative win-win solution.

Organization

A messy desk is a messy mind.  However, if you are too neat, people think you do not have enough work to do.  While perception is reality to many people, staying organized and knowing where you stand on your tasks is critical for success.  If you do not know what your most important tasks are, you will inevitably work on lower priority tasks over urgent work.

Effective Communication

Poor communication skills can make or break developing your personal brand.  Consider the sentence:

“I like cooking my family and pets.”

Commas matter!

“I like cooking, my family, and pets.”

English and many other languages will change their meaning simply by leaving out punctuation or words. 

One of the side benefits of effective communication is that you will receive less emails from others asking for clarifications.  The larger your audience, the more emails you receive because you did not correctly articulate your message accurately.

Performance Management

When you measure your performance, you will naturally perform better.  If you measure and report your performance to others, you will perform at a higher rate.  In your work, look at how you can measure your performance and record it appropriately.  When it comes to doing your self-evaluation, you can provide proven metrics on your performance. 

Another aspect of performance management is that you are a professional.  If you manage yourself, your manager will not develop the need to manage you (except when dealing with various types of bad managers).  Self-management is a sign of maturity and often that leads to higher levels of trust.

Act as a Change Agent

All too often, you hear the phrase, “That is the way we’ve always done it”.  You know it can be done a better way.  By acting as a change agent, you will make work better for everyone involved.  Solving a problem that existed for a long time is a great morale booster for yourself and your coworkers will thank you for making their jobs better.

How to Get into Project Management to Hone These Skills

Request Additional Duties by Volunteering for Project Work

The chicken or the egg problem!  Get involved in any way that you can and work on tasks and projects that do not overextend your abilities.  You want to get outside of your comfort zone, but not so far out that you overwhelm yourself.

Identify a Problem and Deploy a Solution

Projects do not have to be multi-million-dollar solutions that take years to solve.  Solve problems that only take a few weeks of your time if you work on them part time in conjunction with your normal job.

Take Project Management Classes

Since there is a huge demand for qualified project managers, finding classes to take is much easier than ever before.  With YouTube, you can find plenty of courses for free that allow you to prepare for the PMP certification.

We live in a world where you can learn almost anything from anywhere around the world.  Finding the knowledge is easy.  Make time for yourself to gain the knowledge.

Record Your Experience, Learn PMI’s PMBOK and Get PMP Certified

PMI requires you log real world experience in project management that follows the PMI framework.  If you have project time under your belt, log it and you are that much closer to eligibility.  More likely, you are new to project management and today is the best time to start recording your activities that count towards eligibility.

Conclusion

The one thing you can say about soft skills is they rarely go out of fashion.  Technology comes and goes.  Investing in a technology is a gamble.  What was popular a few years ago may not be relevant today.  These skills in conflict resolution, effective communication, and negotiation will help you perform better today, tomorrow, and for years to come.  People have been managing others for thousands of years, the need for these skills will not die off overnight!

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