Guild of Project Controls: Compendium | Roles | Assessment | Certifications | Membership

Why People Skills are Important

Traditional project management concepts focus on processes, timelines and budgets, but forget the human aspect of the project management. The human relations approach to project management has gained increasing acceptance because project managers have realized the importance of focusing on the human aspects in this sphere. These aspects relate to people’s skills, their communication and relationships with others during the project implementation. The aim of every project is to create value for the end-user of the product. If the end-user is satisfied with the product that is the result of the project implementation, then the project is believed to have created the intended value.

Projects are becoming increasingly complex because they involve different teams that accomplish different tasks. All these tasks aim at creating the end product that the project undertakes to produce. Since the project has many tasks that need to be accomplished, the project manager must look for people with the right set of skills for each task. To achieve this goal, the manager must view the project as a complex system that is made up of different interrelated units. The success of the project depends on the success of these sub-systems. Due to the complexity of the project management, the manager cannot be present when each task is being accomplished. Therefore, the manager needs people with skills to accomplish the tasks with minimum supervision. The various tasks in a project are done by teams with skills and expertise that fit the tasks. These teams require a team leader to coordinate the activities of the teams and liaise with the project manager. The team leader must possess skills in leadership and must be able to motivate the team members to realize their goals within the constraints of time and budget.

The importance of skills in project management is crucial and those organizations that recognize this fact readily go beyond borders in search of employees’ skills through outsourcing. When a project team has the right set of skills, the project is likely to get accomplished. When managers realize the importance of people’s skills, they seek those with the skills even outside their organizations. In its turn, outsourcing creates a problem that increases the need for skills. Once a team of people has been outsourced to accomplish a pre-determined task, they must coordinate with the project manager. Coordination may be difficult because the two groups are new to each other and have never worked together. This requires conflict resolution skills and problem solving abilities. A project manager must possess skills in communication so that problems that arise are addressed fast and effectively through dialogue. Organizations downsize their personnel when they decide to outsource for services from other firms. When this happens, the organization outsourcing has no control of the skills and knowledge of the outsourced firm. This creates the need for accuracy in choosing the people with the right skills. When an organization uses its employees in the entire project, it has the knowledge of the skill levels in the organization . As such, any deficiency can be compensated through outsourcing. However, when an organization outsources employees, it must be sure of the employees' skills which will allow to accomplish the tasks because there is rarely any compensation plan.

The complexity of project management and the existence of a matrix structure requires the managers and team leaders to have unique skills. The project manager must define the goals that must be met and the people to play various roles. This needs to be done upfront so that all the team members are aware of what is expected of them. A successful leading in a matrix management structure requires the manager to be able to determine the performance goals and metrics to measure them. These metrics should be communicated to the teams in charge of the various tasks. This role requires the project manager to be coherent and clear in communicating with the teams. Therefore, the manager requires eloquence, clarity in communicating ideas and charisma to communicate and inspire the teams to accomplish the given tasks.

The success of the project is influenced by the extent to which people involved socialize with each other. Relationships in a project management setting span across the organizational boundaries because the teams come from diverse backgrounds. Skills in the facilitating bonding of these diverse people are vital to the success of the undertaking. The manager and the team leaders must posses the skills to facilitate dialogue, conflict resolution and compromises so that the teams can work in harmony. Therefore, the leaders at various levels of the project must have multicultural management skills that will enhance understanding by appreciating the strength of the diversity.

A project is affected by both internal and external factors. Internal factors are those found within the organization while external factors relate to an organization’s external environment. The internal situations that are likely to affect people’s skills incorporation include bringing together people with different expertise for joint work. The problem associated with this task is that people may not be willing to become answerable to a colleague from another department. As such, ironing out the differences that may exist makes the project complex in terms of incorporating people’s skills. An external factor that might complicate the project is the existence of teams outside the organization. These teams are used to an organizational culture different from their current employers’ organization environment and culture. Adjusting to the new culture might be challenging while understanding the new team may be difficult for employees in the organization that implements certain project.

The human capital that will be working on this project is essential because it forms the basis upon which the project will be accomplished. The company may possess material and financial resources, but it is the human capital that combines the material resources with skills to achieve the desired outcome. The coordination required to consolidate all the teams to lead the project to its intended outcome is done by people. Therefore, people’s skills are indispensable and crucial to the accomplishment of the project’s objectives.

One of the benefits of bringing together people will different skills and expertise to work on the project is the creation of synergy. Moreover, learning will take place as people work together on the project. When different teams concentrate on individual tasks, they increase efficiency and reduce chances of flaws since each team is allocated a task depending the members skill set. The drawback of having people work on this project is that when a problem in one team occurs, it may delay the work of the other teams that may be dependent on the team with the problem. Moreover, when one team has members who are incompetent in some aspects, other teams may lose morale and motivation because the results of the united work may be negative.

Cultural differences between the teams working on the project may delay the accomplishment of the project. Aligning the cultural aspects of the teams may be time consuming and may delay the time schedule of the project. The presence of external teams may be a threat to the organization’s unique competitive position because they may access information on the core competencies of the organization.

Melissa Thomas is a young author. She likes experimenting with the style of presentation.


Thank you Melissa for this

Thank you Melissa for this thoughtful article.

Market Place

Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project books, on-line video training courses and training material available from an internationally recognised publisher and PMI accredited REP. Teach yourself using on-line or book based learning or run your own in-house or public PMI accredited courses.