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  1. 1. Soft Skills For Project Managers and Teams Kathy Schwalbe, Ph.D., PMP Express Scripts PMUG Meeting February 16, 2005 [email_address]
  2. 2. Speaker Background <ul><li>Associate Professor at Augsburg College, Dept. of Business Administration, also teach project management at U of M in ME dept. </li></ul><ul><li>Author of “Information Technology Project Management,” Fourth Edition out this March (Note: Most figures in this presentation are from my text) </li></ul><ul><li>10 years full-time industry experience before entering academia in 1991 </li></ul>
  3. 3. Personal Background <ul><li>Middle child (#3 out of 7) </li></ul><ul><li>Did not speak until 3 years old </li></ul><ul><li>“ Forced” to write a lot in high school </li></ul><ul><li>Rarely spoke in classes (until graduate school) </li></ul><ul><li>Studied and worked in primarily hi-tech jobs, but soon learned that… </li></ul><ul><li>Communications and other “soft” skills are what help you advance and gain job/life fulfillment </li></ul>
  4. 4. Presentation Overview <ul><li>Project management framework </li></ul><ul><li>Job functions and characteristics of effective project managers </li></ul><ul><li>Tool and techniques to help project managers and teams (require hard and soft skills) </li></ul><ul><li>Developing soft skills </li></ul>
  5. 5. Project Management Framework
  6. 6. <ul><li>Define scope of project </li></ul><ul><li>Identify stakeholders, decision-makers, and escalation procedures </li></ul><ul><li>Develop detailed task list (work breakdown structures) </li></ul><ul><li>Estimate time requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Develop initial project management flow chart </li></ul><ul><li>Identify required resources and budget </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluate project requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Identify and evaluate risks </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare contingency plan </li></ul><ul><li>Identify interdependencies </li></ul><ul><li>Identify and track critical milestones </li></ul><ul><li>Participate in project phase review </li></ul><ul><li>Secure needed resources </li></ul><ul><li>Manage the change control process </li></ul><ul><li>Report project status </li></ul>Project Management Job Functions* *&quot;Building a Foundation for Tomorrow: Skills Standards for Information Technology,&quot; Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies, Belleview, WA, 1999 Mostly “hard” skills?
  7. 7. Characteristics of Effective Project Managers* <ul><li>Leads by example </li></ul><ul><li>Visionary </li></ul><ul><li>Technically competent </li></ul><ul><li>Decisive </li></ul><ul><li>Good communicator </li></ul><ul><li>Good motivator </li></ul><ul><li>Stands up to upper management when necessary </li></ul><ul><li>Supports team members </li></ul><ul><li>Encourages new ideas </li></ul>*Zimmerer, Thomas W. and Mahmoud M. Yasin, &quot;A Leadership Profile of American Project Managers,” Project Management Journal , March 1998 Mostly “soft” skills?
  8. 8. Project Management Tools and Techniques <ul><li>Project management tools and techniques assist project managers and their teams in various aspects of project management </li></ul><ul><li>Many tools and techniques emphasize “hard” skills, but they require soft skills to get people to use them effectively </li></ul>
  9. 9. What’s the Most Popular Tool Used by Project Managers? <ul><li>The Work Breakdown Structure </li></ul>
  10. 10. WBS for an IT Upgrade Project
  11. 11. You Need Good Soft Skills to Develop a Good WBS <ul><li>The WBS provides a very logical structure, but our minds don’t work that way </li></ul><ul><li>The challenge is getting people to provide good inputs to help develop the structure </li></ul><ul><li>Suggestions for developing a good WBS? </li></ul>
  12. 12. Try Using a Mind Map to Help Create a WBS Can use pictures and colors, too, in drawing mind maps
  13. 13. What Are Some Popular Time Management Tools? <ul><li>Gantt charts </li></ul><ul><li>Network diagrams </li></ul>
  14. 14. Gantt Chart for an Intranet Project
  15. 15. Network Diagram
  16. 16. You Need Good Soft Skills to Create and Control Project Schedules <ul><li>Gantt charts and network diagrams are also very logical, useful tools, but… </li></ul><ul><li>How do you get good estimates, figure out the dependencies, and get people to focus on completing critical tasks on time? </li></ul>
  17. 17. Pass the Gorilla…?! <ul><li>A project team at Apple Computer worked in an area with cubicles, and whoever was in charge of a task currently on the critical path had a big, stuffed gorilla on top of his or her cubicle </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone knew that person was under the most time pressure, so they tried not to distract him or her </li></ul><ul><li>When a critical task was completed, the person in charge of the next critical task received the gorilla </li></ul>
  18. 18. What Cost Control Tool Do Many Experts Say is Crucial to Project Management? <ul><li>Earned Value Management </li></ul>
  19. 19. Earned Value Chart
  20. 20. What Do You Need to Implement Earned Value Management? <ul><li>Top management commitment </li></ul><ul><li>Team commitment to develop good estimates and enter “real” actuals </li></ul><ul><li>Culture that permits mistakes </li></ul><ul><li>Strong integration between project budgeting and corporate accounting </li></ul><ul><li>Good metrics to create better estimates based on actuals from past projects </li></ul>
  21. 21. What’s a Popular Tool for Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities for Project Work? <ul><li>Responsibility assignment matrices </li></ul><ul><li>RACI charts </li></ul>
  22. 22. Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)
  23. 23. Sample RACI Chart R = responsibility, only one R per task A = accountability C = consultation I = informed
  24. 24. You Need Soft Skills to Help Clarify Roles and Responsibilities <ul><li>Do you take the time to clearly define roles and responsibilities on project tasks? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you need to convince people that it’s well worth the time and effort? </li></ul>
  25. 25. Do You Know How Your People are Allocated? <ul><li>What tool can show you individual and group allocations? </li></ul><ul><li>Resource histograms </li></ul>
  26. 26. What’s Wrong With This Picture?
  27. 27. Are People Afraid to Let You Know When They’re Under Allocated? <ul><li>Most people let you know when they’re too busy, but are they really too busy? </li></ul><ul><li>Are they working on the right things? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it “safe” to say you can handle more work or that some tasks you’re supposed to do aren’t worth doing? </li></ul>
  28. 28. Which Project Management Knowledge Area is Least Mature? <ul><li>Project Risk Management </li></ul><ul><li>What simple tool can you use to help identify and prioritize project risks that’s very low tech and high touch? </li></ul><ul><li>A probability/impact matrix (using sticky notes works fine), and then… </li></ul><ul><li>Discussing strategies for managing high and medium risks, both positive and negative, and documenting them in a risk register </li></ul>
  29. 29. Sample Probability/Impact Matrix
  30. 30. Sample Risk Register 3 R7 2 R21 1 R44 Status Impact Probability Risk Owner Potential Responses Triggers Root Cause Category Description Risk Rank No.
  31. 31. What Are Some Important Project Communications Management Tools? <ul><li>Stakeholder analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Stakeholder analysis for communications </li></ul><ul><li>Status/progress reports </li></ul>
  32. 32. Sample Stakeholder Analysis
  33. 33. Sample Stakeholder Analysis for Project Communications
  34. 34. What Do People Write/Say On Status/Project Reports? <ul><li>Are people encouraged to bring up issues? </li></ul><ul><li>Are too many reports done in writing instead of verbally? </li></ul><ul><li>Do managers and team members provide helpful suggestions during review meetings? </li></ul>
  35. 35. Individual Versus Organizational Issues <ul><li>Every individual can improve his/her soft skills </li></ul><ul><li>Organizations must also strive to provide a culture conducive to good project management </li></ul>
  36. 36. Organizational Culture <ul><li>Organizational culture is a set of shared assumptions, values, and behaviors that characterize the functioning of an organization </li></ul><ul><li>Many experts believe the underlying causes of many companies’ problems are not the structure or staff, but the culture </li></ul>
  37. 37. Ten Characteristics of Organizational Culture <ul><li>Member identity* </li></ul><ul><li>Group emphasis* </li></ul><ul><li>People focus </li></ul><ul><li>Unit integration* </li></ul><ul><li>Control </li></ul><ul><li>Risk tolerance* </li></ul><ul><li>Reward criteria* </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict tolerance* </li></ul><ul><li>Means-ends orientation </li></ul><ul><li>Open-systems focus* </li></ul>*Project work is most successful in an organizational culture where these items are strong/high and other items are balanced.
  38. 38. Developing Soft Skills <ul><li>Many tools, techniques, and courses in project management emphasize “hard” skills, and it is important to learn them </li></ul><ul><li>It is also crucial to develop “soft” skills to be effective, such as </li></ul><ul><ul><li>following the ABCs of communicating </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>building rapport </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>listening empathically </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>team building, motivating, negotiating, etc. </li></ul></ul>
  39. 39. ABCs of Communicating* <ul><li>A im for a specific result or series of outcomes from your communications </li></ul><ul><li>B e positive </li></ul><ul><li>See , hear, and feel sensory data </li></ul><ul><li>D ovetail desires </li></ul><ul><li>E ntertain long- and short-term objectives </li></ul>*Laborde, Genie, Influencing with Integrity, Syntony Publishing, 1987
  40. 40. Building Rapport <ul><li>When rapport is not present, it becomes top priority in communication </li></ul><ul><li>A process called mirroring or pacing works well to gain rapport </li></ul><ul><li>Many sales people use mirroring, then stroking, then go for the sale </li></ul>
  41. 41. Listening Empathically <ul><li>Empathic listening means listening with the intent to understand </li></ul><ul><li>“Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” as Covey puts it </li></ul><ul><li>You can learn to put yourself in another’s shoes and focus on understanding them before trying to get them to understand you </li></ul>
  42. 42. Team Building, Motivating, Negotiating, etc <ul><li>Many soft skills take time and practice to develop, but most people are capable of improving them </li></ul><ul><li>Role playing is a good technique before testing new skills in a real-world setting </li></ul><ul><li>Working with a mentor/expert also helps build these skills </li></ul>
  43. 43. Ideas for Developing Soft Skills at ESI?
  44. 44. Questions/Comments? Note: You can access lots of great, free PM info from my Web site at