10 Steps Towards Advanced Project Management
Professional project managers seeking certifications often discover that there remains so much more to learn about the subject. Some managers bank on the power of actual experience to strengthen their know-how; however there is something that the knowledge of structured approaches offers that mere hands-on experience can't. Given the many learning opportunities available, how can program and project managers choose the right path that will further improve their skills?
Improvement and Skill Building, One Step At A Time
We, as individuals, need to employ the principle of continuous improvement. We have a broad culture of self-help and personal improvement, but not everyone has adopted the approach, and almost everyone could do even better. Just as so many practice personal self-improvement with the assistance of self-improvement books, motivational materials, attending motivational seminars, and more, it is virtually the same thing in the realm of project management skills. Advanced project management skills simply are taking everything we know, and then some, to the next level by becoming aware of new ideas and incorporating them into our own best practices.
Let's look at an example of how we can improve our ability to run meetings. We all know that the best way to do this is to practice, but, then again, it must be good practice. It is true that practice makes perfect, but "perfect practice" is what brings home the bacon. If we find ourselves in meetings on a regular basis, the best way to improve those skills and become a more "advanced project manager" is to try to raise our awareness, apply, adopt, and internalize one or two new ideas for continuous improvement on a daily basis.
For example, in meetings, setting a time limit for the meeting is a good technique. If you have not been doing that, or if you are not satisfied with how effectively you have been doing it, simply try to adopt this one single technique, master it, and integrate it into your common best practices. You might then want to tackle the idea of improving something like facilitation skills to enable everyone to contribute in an optimal way in solving problems in meetings. The key is to mark an area for improvement, to seek information on it to acquire one or two practical objectives, and to begin to put into practice.
Advanced project management training can help greatly in this process of personal and professional continuous improvement. Firstly, this will help us recognize and deal with different types of issues. It can heighten our awareness of what happens in certain situations and how to cope. It would help to not just familiarize, but, actually, practice the different aspects of our soft skills in various everyday project management experiences.
Getting beyond meetings, project managers may identify any of the following areas and more for self improvement in the journey to more advanced project management skills:
1. Improve understanding of project and organizational finance.
2. Learn more techniques for communicating with people from different cultures.
3. Develop a deeper understanding of the unique perspectives of the various workforce generations that might make up your team.
4. Identify opportunities for leveraging outsourcing on projects, and also identify the risks and pitfalls of the outsourcing approach.
5. Adopt a more thorough understanding of issues surrounding telecommuting, and techniques and pitfalls in this evolving environment.
6. Build more advanced consultative skills for working as an external consultant, having worked within a single company for many years.
7. Become more effective at managing technical employees, a unique workplace challenge.
8. Broaden your scope of understanding of project management by expiring related methodologies, Bodies of Knowledge (BOKs), and frameworks, such as PRINCE2 or Six Sigma.
9. Seek to better understand the evolving field of knowledge management in organizations.
10. Develop a formal understanding of the strategic planning process, which provides the input to portfolio management and guide project and program selection.
This list of 10 possibilities for advancing one's project and program management skills is actually a short one. When it comes to advancing project management skills, the sky is the limit, and the opportunities are virtually endless. There are a nearly infinite number of different types of challenges that a project or program manager faces, and whether by reading books, listening to selected speakers, taking classroom or online courses, and even hiring a coach, there is a lot of opportunity to improve, and many ways to do it.