Five skills every Project Manager should have

Mike Tyson is the youngest man to become heavyweight boxing champion of the world.  More famously (in the world of Project Management) he is known for his quote “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth”.

To avoid getting punched, here are 5 of the key tools that Project Management gives to deal with uncertainty:

1. Schedule

The need to plan sounds obvious, but we all know we are guilty of rushing ahead to start executing a project rather than taking enough time to build a solid schedule.  A schedule takes a big project and breaks it down into a series of bite-size pieces, which can then be tackled day by day, week by week, month by month.


2. Triple Constraint

In addition to the schedule, any plan needs to have a defined budget (how much money is available); and a defined scope (how much work is to be done).  Those three things must be planned and balanced in a way that will deliver an acceptable level of quality.  By remembering this, a Project Manager will ensure they come up with a realistic plan that can be delivered, rather than a fantasy wish-list.


3. Identify Risk

A good boxer needs to be able to take a punch.  But a great boxer will see that punch coming, and avoid it.  To misquote Mr. Tyson, if you keep getting hit, your plan will become irrelevant.  So rather than live in optimism, you must think about the things that might go wrong, and then decide what you can do now to prevent those things from happening.  Some things can’t be prevented so then you decide what you can do as a contingency plan.  Think of it as wearing a face-guard.


4. Monitor & Control

Projects have a beginning and an end.  They rarely end exactly how you envisaged – changes will occur that require you to take action, switch stance and adjust your position.  Monitoring simply means checking how your project is progressing vs the plan.  Control means taking corrective action if you are falling behind the plan.  Both things must be done from the start right through to the end of the project.


5. Act on Lessons Learned

At the end of each project it can be tempting to just move on to the next one.  But it’s important to learn from our mistakes, and also to celebrate any successes.  The Project Management Body of Knowledge has been built up from centuries of people sharing their lessons learned – there are always new challenges to be overcome and new techniques that people discover.


Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira.

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