Project Management

How Many Technical PM Skills Do I Really Need?

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

This is one of those philosophically challenging and ultimately insoluble questions, right up there with "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" A question where the correct answer is encompassed by "all of them," "none of them" and "somewhere in between."

I shall attempt to give a meaningful, considered and comprehensive look to all of those answers.

Just to get it out of the way, let's start with "none of them." For many, this doesn't remotely resemble a viable answer. Project managers, after all, must know things. They must organize. And schedule. And keep all the bits together. And anticipate the bits they will need to keep together next. And there's a body of knowledge for all of that, let's not forget.

Before we knew about that body of knowledge, however, we just did things. We got stuff done. We figured it out. We were, as I've pointed out time and again, often "accidental project managers." We found project management without quite knowing how we pulled that off. Certainly, there was no grand plan or overarching strategy guiding us toward that outcome.

Today, I can think of dozens of people—in a variety of industries and sectors, at all levels of the organization—who competently get things done. They do project management-like things, but they would not call…

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