This question has come up once too many a time in our classes that I felt we could as well provide the answers on our blog for all who care to explore this question.
Something about this question feels like being a parent with three or four children and a person comes in to ask; “who is the most important child in your home?” Of course, that would be a difficult question for any parent because every child is special, unique and the most important in his own way.
What is the number one thing a project manager needs to be successful? Firstly, you must understand that success is caused by a cluster of good practices and qualities. Holding on to one “best” number one thing, and practicing it in isolation isn’t going to be the magic bullet that cures all ailment. However, if we are to find out a skill or practice can go very far in determining the success of a project manager, I’ll point to communication skills.
Communication skills. If there were just one thing, that would be it. Over and over again, you hear that project management is all about communication. If you can't make your point with those that work with you, with stakeholders, with sponsors - all is lost. Communication is that important a skill that if you went on Google to search out these specific keywords “Project Management is all about Communication”, you’ll get over 153,000,000 results – for this EXACT PHRASE.
You can have the best technical and project skills. However, projects are about people. If you cannot communicate well (both listening and speaking), all the skills in the world will not achieve the optimum results.
That said, there’s a lot of other things you’ll need in a fair balance to succeed as a project manager. A good software is one of them; worktools such as Work Section can help you collaborate with various stakeholders to achieve the goals of the project, a flexible and competent team is also vital to success, clarity on project goals, timelines, deadlines, budget and all expectations are also important to maintaining control over the outcomes of the project, and many other factors and skills that are essential for successful delivery on projects. That’s why my initial emphasis was on the need to understand and juggle the cluster of requirements for Project Management success.
However, if I must state one – and it had to be a skill, I’ll say communication skills. And if it had to be a resource, I’ll say a competent, reliable team with members that understand and work very well with each other.
I hope this suffices.