I have been a bit frustrated lately by the number of events highlighting soft skills in project management. After all, isn’t it the hard skills that make us successful?
There is no doubt in my mind that project managers must be trained and well versed in the hard skills of project management to be successful. Following the project management methodologies of breaking down a project into manageable and easy to estimate pieces is the key to success. These practices ensure that the project will be completely defined, flow properly and provide the much needed detail required to track the project along the way.
Anyone that calls themselves a project manager must be trained in these foundational hard skills of project management. If they do not understand these tools, techniques and processes they have no opportunity to be a successful project manager. In my circle of acquaintances Those people who claim to be project managers generally have a good understanding of these techniques. The problems I hear most have to do with the project teams.
While it is sometimes noted that there is conflict within the project team, it is more common to find problems between the project team and the project managers. That statement alone points to a systemic issue that the project manager is not considered a part of the project team. The PMs are more often considered outsiders that are trying to inject project management techniques into the project design team. This is where the competition begins.
The nature of the behavioral style of project managers makes them fairly competitive and controlling by nature. They are people that strive for success which they define as “getting their own way.” As a result PMs tend to create a competitive environment when met with resistance. This creates the “us-them” relationship between the team and themselves and perhaps project management in general.
It is for this reason that there is so much focus on the soft skills for project managers. Project managers need to become less competitive and learn to integrate themselves into the project team to create a “we” relationship with the team. The hard skills might be the easier piece of the puzzle. So I guess this is why there may be more being said about the soft skills these days.