It is evident with each passing year that the rate of change in all types of organisation continues to increase. So whilst competence in the core skills required to manage day to day operation will always be key to short term performance, the ability to manage change becomes ever more dominant in determining longer term survival and growth. In the past the ability to manage change was seen as a special skill set, only needed by ‘project people’; nowadays it is widely recognised that these skills are increasingly ‘part of the day job’ for all concerned.
Competencies for delivering successful projects
Studies of project performance continue to demonstrate the importance of six ‘critical competencies’ in determining project success. These can be summarised as:
- Defining clear goals that are agreed by all the principal stakeholders
- Developing realistic plans based on sensible assumptions and backed up by good risk management
- Creating an effective organisation with the right people having clear roles and responsibilities
- Implementing pro-active controls and procedures that emphasise problem prevention
- Building genuine teamwork that builds partnership between all the key participants
- Providing appropriate leadership throughout the team and between the team and the organisation
Whilst these competencies may seem self-evident, the management of many projects falls short in one or more areas with the result that they under-perform and occasionally fail completely.
Developing project management skills
For a given project or change initiative, performance in the competencies identified above depends on the ‘primary skills’ of those involved. These primary skills broadly fall into three categories or ‘domains’:
- Initiating skills: these skills reflect ability to think about future possibilities and select a preferred course of action. Skills such as creative thinking, idea evaluation and analysis, visualisation, planning, risk identification and analysis all fall into this domain. These skills are particularly relevant to defining clear goals and developing realistic plans.
- Implementing skills: these skills reflect ability to identify and assign the resources required to a course of action and to optimise a team’s performance in achieving goals. Skills such as work breakdown, organisation design, delegating, technical competence and operational management fall into this domain. These skills are particularly relevant to creating an effective organisation and implementing pro-active controls.
- Interpersonal skills: these skills reflect ability to motivate others, individually and as a group, to engage with each other and commit to achieving a goal. Skills such as listening, motivating, negotiating, communicating and empathising fall into this domain. These skills are particularly relevant to building genuine teamwork and providing appropriate leadership
The 3D Project Management Model
The 3D project management (3D-PM) model helps illustrate the relationships between the six critical areas of competence and the three primary skill domains. Gaining commitment to clear goals, for instance, requires appropriate visualisation skills (blue) to see new possibilities combined with leadership skills (red) to agree priorities and organisational expertise (green) to recognise what is possible with available resources.
This 3D model provides a simple holistic approach to project management that goes beyond the traditional focus on techniques and procedures and recognises the vital role of interpersonal skills in creating successful outcomes. In so doing, it offers a framework that helps those involved in project work understand and develop the full management skill-set they need for their own role and responsibilities. It also helps identify the true root causes of project underperformance and develop an effective strategy for continuous improvement. Finally, the 3D model can be used to develop a generic corporate approach to improving project management skills that aligns with other existing frameworks such as those used by the Project Management Institute (PMI).