5 key characteristics of any exceptional project manager- Inside Chang Industrial with Carl Ogborn
Updated: Jan 2
Welcome to Inside Chang Industrial where we feature the unique insights of our team members. In this article, Carl Ogborn shares his expertise on being a project manager in an industry full of face-paced disruption.
Carl Ogborn is a rising star in project management and quality assurance. Carl is mid-career and a perfect example of “upskilling” in a changing economy. He is a devoted husband and father of 4 and he first established his career as a craftsman in the mechanical construction trade. In 2018, Carl initiated a pivot in his career towards quality assurance, robot & software testing, and project management. Carl assumed customer facing roles and formalized his training by earning a certification of Project Management at Purdue University. Carl uses his knowledge of the construction trades and his new skills in Project Management to offer high end customer service. We are delighted to hear his insights:
There are 5 skills that are most important to possess in the project management profession. When you assume the role of a project manager you are responsible for a comprehensive assortment of project activities. A PM's role begins early in the life cycle of the project and some of these responsibilities include initial development of the project, planning scope cost and schedule, leading design efforts, procurement, resources, risk management, change management, project closeout and the list goes on. It is evident that the project management position requires a broad spectrum of professional skills for the project to be successful.
The top 5 must-have skills for a PM to be well-rounded and effective in the vast array of responsibilities that come with the role are communication, leadership, organization, planning and forecasting, and technical skills.
(5): technical skills
Technical skills range from being proficient in various project management software applications to possessing knowledge in the subject matter in which you are managing. Truly understanding the scope and objectives of a deliverable is prudent in identifying the project’s inherent risks. This know-how allows you to manage intuitively and will naturally push the project to completion.
Experience in software applications is a must for today’s project managers. Popular project management applications include Microsoft Project, Jira, PowerPoint, Excel, and shared drives such as SharePoint and Google docs. These tools are frequently used to communicate, plan, and organize while managing resources, schedules, and budgets. Project Managers should always strive to evolve and leverage the newest technologies available to improve project management practices.
(4): planning and forecasting
Proper planning prevents poor performance. One key skill for a project manager to have is the ability to provide a plan that will guide the project team and stakeholders to project delivery. This includes closely analyzing the project deliverables and developing a concise plan that includes a detailed schedule and accurate budget, among many other components.
Forecasting involves providing a prediction for project outcomes typically for a company’s leadership team. This includes projecting what is commonly referred to as an estimate at completion, or EAC. This incorporates any cost or schedule variance against the planned value and allows the team to take any actions needed as early as possible. These actions may include “crashing” or “Fast-tracking” the schedule to finish on time or tapping into reserve funds to complete the project. Accurate planning followed by analyzing progress to forecast schedule and cost at completion is critical to keep a project on time and under budget.
Strong organizational skills are crucial to maintaining an efficient and productive work environment. A PM should be well organized in every aspect of the project from planning the project details to daily time management. Imagine accommodating a scope change, then later down the road the client challenges the charges, and you are not able to produce the change approval because you cannot remember or find where you saved it? When you are responsible for planning, scheduling, budgeting, contracts, etc. you must have the ability to efficiently produce any project artifact should a dispute arise.
Organizational capabilities can be improved by creating a clean workspace, physically and virtually. Eliminating clutter and getting rid of unnecessary distractions will also help complete daily responsibilities. Creating a structured document depository and training team members on preferred storage practices. Additionally, keeping your calendar updated will help with time management as well as serve as a memory bank.
Strong leadership skills are pertinent to the PM role. Essentially you are the captain of the ship, and if you’re not an effective captain there is a good chance the project could sink. It’s important for the project team to have faith in the PM's ability to lead. The leadership skill largely encompasses many of the PM's responsibilities including relating to your team with empathy (Resource Management), steering the ship through rough terrain (Risk Management), and effectively conveying the goal of the project (Communications management).
Servant leadership is an approach that focuses on the development and needs of the project team to enable the highest possible team performance. This style serves as more of a facilitator to enable collaboration, communication, and engagement while removing impediments that may interfere with the project team's progress in lieu of the micromanagement / delegating approach.
Some components of solid leadership skills include strong interpersonal skills, resilience, problem-solving, critical thinking, being a visionary, conflict management, and expressing positivity and optimism. Ways to develop this skill involve associating with experienced leaders, willingness to learn, having a personal growth plan, being self-aware, and challenging yourself.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Communication is Key”, likely from your spouse but this statement could not be truer when speaking of project management. A recent study found that poor communication was a key factor in 29% of failed projects (67.5% in marriages). There is a wide range of people from diverse professions and demographics that depend on the PM's clear and concise communication of information. This may mean tailoring your communication delivery to fit the audience for whom it is intended. From delivering status updates to the project sponsor to providing details of scope to suppliers and vendors to managing the execution with the project team, strong and flexible communication skills are crucial for the successful delivery of the project. A communication strategy should be developed early in the project that includes the communication needs of various stakeholders, the manner in which sensitive and confidential information is shared, social media policies, frequency and method of status updates, and persons responsible for communicating certain information just to name a few.
Some key components to effective communication skills are correctness of grammar and nomenclature of shared information, understanding tone in written communication, active listening (which involves understanding the scope and stakeholder's needs and responding accordingly) and cultural awareness; this awareness will help mitigate misunderstandings and miscommunication based on cultural differences.
It's not a surprise that the top 3 are “soft skills”. As a project manager, you interact with people in every aspect of the project. The client or representative of the client is a person, your project team members are people, and the suppliers and vendors are people. Effective interpersonal skills are most crucial for successful project management. These capabilities will support contract negotiations, resource management, stakeholder management, and conflict resolution which will ultimately lead to the completion of a successful project.
Authored by Carl Ogborn
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Additional resources for learning:
Dorsett Watson- insights from a project engineer and student
Strategic BIM for Industrial and Manufacturing Projects: A Case Study