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How to improve your project management skills

by Sellick Partnership | 30 January 2017

With project management positions on the rise in Finance & Accounting , we picked the brains of an experienced public sector project manager to get his top tips on how to manage projects to the best of your ability.

Matthew Taylor is a Project Manager for Transport for London and is currently working in MEP + L&E discipline for a project constructing, a new 170m link tunnel underground at Paddington Station. 

Taylor states that fundamentally 40 percent of project management can be taught in a classroom but the other 60 percent you learn on the job, and it all comes down to how to deal with and manage people. A common misconception about project management is that “it is just about filling out forms” which Taylor states couldn’t be further from the truth. Project management is about problem solving, issue management and leading a team to achieve the right solution to drive the project forward. There are a numerous different streams of project management you can go down such as Construction, Manufacturing, IT, Pharmaceuticals and Business Change. However, no matter which stream you chose, the core skills required remain the same.

There is a common misconception that you need to be from an engineering or “technical” background to be a good Project Manager, however in recent years there has been a new school of thought focusing on Project Management being a management science, arguing it is about a person’s technical ability to “manage” rather than an engineering ability. 

Thus, according to Taylor, to be a good Project Manager is all about being people orientated and being able to manage. As the Project Manager you rely on your team of technical experts to support you in the decisions you make and the work you deliver. From a competency perspective you should look to develop both your soft and hard skills.

Hard skills:  

  • Stakeholder Management
  • Governance
  • Reporting
  • Planning
  • Risk/Opportunity Management
  • Contracts Management (whether this be JCT/NCE, or bespoke)
  • Procurement Management
  • Health and Safety Management
  • Quality/Assurance Management
  • Resource Management
  • Budgeting
  • Change Control
  • Document Control

Soft skills:

  • Communication both speaking and listening are crucial skills for any successful project. Great project managers do not just go through the motions, they are effective communicators and care about the opinions of the parties involved.
  • Collaboration
  • Mediation
  • Negotiation
  • Conflict Management

To succeed in project management, you need both sets of skills to drive a project forward and be a successful project manager. Taylor suggests that some of the best ways to try and improve your knowledge is through:

  • Undertaking an undergraduate/post graduate degree in Project Management.
  • Gaining accreditation from professional bodies including the APM, RICS and CIOB.
  • Gain professional qualifications such as PRINCE2, MAPM or MRICS.
  • Reading bodies of knowledge such as the PMBOK or MSP (managing successful projects) or Gower Handbook of Project Management.

You can also become a member of the Project Management Institute or join other organisations which allow you to share ideas and tips with fellow project managers. 

If you are interested in project management roles, please do not hesitate to contact me for further information by emailing rachael.brooks@sellickpartnership.co.uk or calling 0151 2245 1480. Alternatively, click here to register your interest.