Staying Relevant as a Project Manager
I recently had the pleasure of discussing training and its future with Raquel Collins, the Associate Director of Continuing Business Studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Sauder School of Business. Raquel and I have known each other for 14 years and had collaborated in the past on an online certificate for eBusiness project management. We were discussing how to stay relevant as a project manager and how a training organization can help; I decided to capture these discussions in the following notes.
We agreed that the emphasis is migrating away from role-specific training and aligning with the PMI Talent Triangle®. Skills that span all levels of the PMI role delineation model are in higher demand and more critical for an overall project professional. Training needs to focus on driving change more than following process.
After several discussions with her, I compiled this list of 14 skills a project manager should refine in order to stay relevant in the future (notice I use the term “refine” and not “master,” as mastery is a journey, not an end state!):
- Become more of a strategic partner. Be able to define a change roadmap interweaving organizational change, technology change and value stream. This includes that clear line of sight between strategic intent and deliverables.
- Master elicitation skills such as humble inquiry and other ways of extracting knowledge from all levels and reformatting it into a usable deliverable. (This is deliberately vague as it depends on the situation.)
- Familiarize Yourself with GEMBA and GEMBA walks to help understand work in progress reviews and KPIs (the importance of having workers report dashboards).
- Visualize project status beyond the dashboard.
- Conduct retrospectives and help your organization learn and improve. This is not only to help the business deliver value faster, but to also help the PMO become a better strategic partner.
- Understand how technology interruption impacts the business on implementing change through projects and programs. It’s not just about knowing that things like artificial intelligence are out there, but also understanding that AI can do lots of data analysis and prescriptive solutioning that the PM must be able to adopt across all project teams.
- Perform cross-project integration—not just program. There are sometimes silo projects that have dependencies and impact; be able to define those overlaps.
- Understand resource and demand management—know what work needs to be done, the skills required, the resources that have the skills, and the resource availability to complete the skill. This is a PMO-type role.
- Demonstrate the challenges of security-based projects. Make sure there is security analysis on every project.
- Be familiar with all aspects of agile approaches. What is agile planning? What are iterations? Which agile tool should I use? Also, be able to transition an agile project to operations to realize the benefits and facilitate quick adoption.
- Scale agile—whether it’s Scum of Scrums or SAFE, get agile out of a small incubator into full enterprise-wide implementation.
- Champion soft skills through advisers, influencers, mentors and training (a scrum master is to make sure everybody knows the process).
- Focus less on delineation of roles (project, program, portfolio) and focus more on business acumen and leadership skills.
- Engage in continuous improvement—eliminate waste in delivering projects; get more efficient at doing existing work.
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