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Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

What are the Soft Skills any Project Manager must have?

b2ap3_thumbnail_softskills_20140224-200339_1.pngDevelopment organizations appoint a project manager according to the depth of his or her technical skills. It is not unusual to find a good engineer being promoted to project manager just for his or her technical competence. While it is true that a good understanding of the technical aspects of a project is useful, project managers are also required to have good management skills, such as communicating, planning, negotiating, coaching, decision-making, and leadership. These skills are often overlooked at the time of hiring or appointing a project manager.

Many project managers are not able to successfully lead projects due to a deficiency of the necessary soft skills.

The job description for a project manager needs to be more explicit and describe the managerial skills and competencies required for the job. Organizations usually assign a project manager with the idea that all that is required is expertise in a technical area, often forgetting the need to have a project manager with the skills to lead a project team, coordinate the use of resources, communicate with stakeholders, and manage the project constraints.

In today’s projects, soft skills are becoming equally as important as technical or hard skills. To be an effective project manager today requires more and more, including a good understanding of general management. Projects are becoming more complex in their nature, and it is no longer possible for the project manager to remain a technical expert. Project managers need to spend more of their time planning, organizing, directing, and monitoring the project.

These are the most critical soft skills:

  • Leadership skills - They are essential for project managers, because project managers must influence the behavior of others to achieve the project objectives.
  • Communication skills - This skill enables a project manager to convey project information in a way that it is assimilated and understood by all project stakeholders, includes both verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • People skills -  Needed in development projects due to the large number of people interfacing with the project. Includes the ability to listen, be empathetic and motivate people.
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The Project Management Cycle

A project management methodology follows a cyclical approach throughout the life of the project. The cycle represents a continuous process in which each phase provides the foundation for the next. For example, during implementation the monitoring phase provides inputs and changes to the original design which then the project managers uses to modify the implementation plans. The cyclic nature among the design, implement and monitor phases is repeated throughout the life of the project.

The project management cycle cosists of six phases:

1.       Initiate

2.       Plan

3.       Implement

4.       Monitor

5.       Adapt

6.       Close

The cycle allows for a constant, iterative process by which the project is constantly adapted, this repetitive cycle continues until all project activities and objectives have been delivered. The cycle approach allows opportunities to review the original project assumptions and plans, as the project makes progress the initial conditions could have changed making necessary for the project to change course or readjust the original plans.

Managing a project is not a linear process, it is cyclical; with each phase receiving feedback from the preceding phase. For example, during the monitoring phase the project may encounter that the original assumptions about an  activity have changed which leads to propose a readjustment of the plans, either in schedule or in scope. No situation in which a project intervenes is static, project management is a cycle that is continually repeated to adapt to a changing context.

The project management cycle continues in a spiral fashion until the project is completed and closed. For larger projects the phases may be broken down in smaller manageable phase, each with its own project management cycle, were the closure on the first phase of a project leads to the initiation of the second phase.

The application of project management is an iterative process. For example, within the planning phase, several iterations of planning may occur as the team develops the best approach and methodologies to implement the project. This process requires additional improvements and refinements to the schedule, budget estimates, quality requirements and risk plans.

As improvements start to occur, the impact to other project management areas must be determined. Over time, the iterations should become smaller in magnitude and more defined as more detailed information about the project is developed. Each project’s management cycle is a knowledge cycle in itself that shapes the initial design and is fed by experience from each implementation and evaluation cycle.


Learn how to initiate, plan, implement, adapt and close a project that meets the needs of the beneficiaries and expectations of key stakeholders. The online course will introduce the elements of the project management lifecycle.  You will learn the methods for the efficient management of a project using a phased approach and the concepts and practices necessary for the success of your management efforts. This course is open for all those who work or plan to get a job in the development cooperation and humanitarian field.

Register now and earn your certificate in Adaptive Project Management with a 20% early registration discount.

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