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I always smile when learning about a new project framework or tool.

At some point, the purveyor of the method will claim their technique is different because of the soft skills of the project manager. For example, listening, relationship building and conflict resolution. But these things are not new or unique. They are under-used and under-appreciated.

Each framework encourages project managers (PMs) to use the soft skills mentioned above. They tell us the modern PM has moved on from command-and-control to coaching and facilitating.

Soft skills in action

We have to be comfortable with the mechanical skills of project management. Indeed, we need to work quickly and efficiently in this arena because we are also team coach.

We support individuals and help them deliver. We don’t do the job for them or make technical decisions. We give our team the opportunity to apply their expertise to the project. We create an open environment where everyone can express their opinions and concerns. We negotiate with the sponsor and key stakeholders. Among other things, making sure they support the project team.

Delivering change

As a change manager, we think about the end customer of our project. We make sure they are ready to change. We resolve their concerns. We act as their advocates.

When launching a new product or service, we bring the Voice of the Customer into our requirements, reviews and decision-making.

Communicating clearly

Wearing a Business Analyst hat, we support data-driven decisions. We present progress meaningfully. We build business cases and realise benefits. We structure requirements to be congruent and complete.

Why pioneering?

At times stakeholders are impatient with good preparation. I was once told to “get on with the f’ing project”. The board later cancelled the same project because the preparation work showed it was ill-conceived.

Standing up against this pressure is hard. Particularly when businesses seek a Project Manager who can produce a Gantt chart and nothing more.

There is an important place for schedules and risk registers, but I hope you see there is more to a PM than the ability to work a scheduling tool and spreadsheet.

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