5 “Essential” Hard Skills for Effective Project Management



Project management organizations understand that hard skills are essential fundamentals for successfully landing projects. PMs know that effectively managing any project will require they have learned these skills.

These are the hard Skills for Project Managers:

  1. Project Charter Preparation
  2. Work Breakdown
  3. Scheduling
  4. Budgeting
  5. Risk Management

1. Project Charter Preparation

Project charters are the blueprint for effective project management. They should be issued by management and they should provide a summary of the business opportunity the project is intending to capitalize on. However often management does not produce the charter and it is frequently up to the project manager to develop it.

A good project charter will define the purpose, objectives and the scope of the project. Project charters also include key details such as budgetary guidance, stakeholder lists and a timeline. They become a critical reference point throughout the project’s life cycle. PMs who become proficient in creating project charters will be better equipped for communicating with their project sponsors and for gaining stakeholder buy-in. Our five tips for developing this skill are:

  • Use the project charter’s development as an opportunity to engage your sponsor and stakeholders. Collaborating early will establish beneficial relationships that will help later on.
  • Be clear and concise – think one or two pages. A brief project charter will not only be better received by busy stakeholders, it will also help you communicate succinctly.
  • Include measurable, time-bound objectives that are realistic, easy to understand and simple to track.
  • Set the project’s preliminary timeline with a simple visual that includes key milestones and when they will be delivered. A good visual will be updated and re-used in status reports throughout the project's life.
  • Reuse project charter statements when communicating. This will help realign audiences with the important business objectives of the project.

2. Work Breakdown

Developing a work breakdown structure or WBS is a critical planning item in managing a project. Work breakdown structure’s help PM’s organize the scope of their projects and enable them to do a variety of project management tasks such as assigning resources and defining deliverables. Since a WBS forms the foundation for all cost and time estimations it is a crucial skill for any project managers to have in their tool box.

Project managers need to become skilled in breaking down all project deliverables into smaller work packages, a process called decomposition. Here are some best practices in creating a WBS:

  • Include 100% of the items required for successful project delivery in the development of your WBS – internal and external deliverable.
  • Lean on your team when creating a Work Breakdown Schedule. They will contribute valuable experience and perspectives to the process.
  • Leverage any existing models or templates that your group or company may have created in the past.
  • Using tools like mind mapping software for the decomposition process and will help you capture and structure the WBS.

3. Scheduling

Project managers know they need to produce a time based schedule of activities so they can set the order in which tasks will be completed. Over the course of the project their schedule will help them see each task, whether it has been completed, is partially done or still needs to be done. It will also allow project managers to see where there are dependencies so they can plan the most efficient path for delivering tasks.

Scheduling is a challenging part of project management and a hard skill PMs need to have. They will benefit from having completed a WBS document which will help set up the project tasks and estimate and sequence them on the schedule. Here are 5 tips to help PMs enhance their scheduling skills:

  • Add progress milestones as check points to the schedule and regularly check them.
  • Wherever possible put higher risk tasks closer to the beginning of your schedule, so you have more runway to manage delays.
  • Know the different types of duration counts that can be used for estimating task duration.
  • Baseline schedules after they have been created so you can compare the plan versus actual when you get into execution.
  • Anticipate that the project schedule will change as tasks or client needs fluctuate and have a process for handling changes.

4. Budgeting

Writing project budgets is an important hard skill for getting projects properly funded and for controlling them. A project manager’s ability to get approval for the necessary funding is dependent on the costs they forecast in their budget. An approved budget also forms a baseline against which actual costs can be measured against to determine if the project is on the right track.

Projects that go way over budget are often viewed as unsuccessful, even if they are delivered on time. Project Managers need to be skilled in forecasting and managing budgets. Here are a few strategies for developing project budgeting skills.

  • Consult with your project team and sponsor when estimating your costs. They have experience that may help you more accurately estimate.
  • After you have estimated costs, identify risks such as third party dependencies, depth of experience on your bench or unfamiliar technology, and manage this risk by adding padding to the budget.
  • Your budget should not just be the total costs of your project, it is the total cost + padding for risk mitigation.
  • Learn from similar budgets that your team or company may have created before, paying special attention to the areas that went beyond budget.
  • Protect your budget against any scope creep. Use your change management process and seek additional funding to cover any unplanned work that can ruin the budget.

5. Risk Management

Projects rarely go exactly as expected and stuff goes wrong along the way. Project managers who are skilled at managing unexpected obstacles plan for it. It is a hard skill that begins with trying to identify the vulnerable areas of the project and then assessing the probability and the impact to the project in worse case scenarios. Skilled PM’s should be able to determine which vulnerabilities require risk management strategies, and they include those strategies into the main project plan to mitigate the risk.

  • Understand how much risk is tolerable on the project. You will need to calibrate any risk management plans with this level of risk toleration.
  • Divide your risk areas into three categories, High Risk, Medium Risk and Low Risk. Create a mitigation plan for all High Risk vulnerabilities.
  • Execute recurring risk assessment exercises regularly through the life of the project as a way of monitoring for new risks that may have surfaced.
  • Identify positive risks and create plan in advance for capitalizing on these opportunities so they can be turned into favorable outcomes.
  • The costs for all risk management plans need to be built into the budget early.

You may also have noticed that many of the hard and soft skills we have listed here are interrelated. Project managers will need to employ many different skills, particularly as the complexity of their project increases. Those who have the right combination of expertise and experience will be valuable in any project focused enterprises and all PMOs. Any PM who effectively utilizes some of these hard and soft skills will greatly increase their chances of success. At the same time they will also be improving their own personal brand amongst colleagues, clients and management.

Becoming proficient at project management will mean that practitioners are constantly adding to their existing skills with new best practices and techniques. Doing so will not only help them become more successful at their project management career but it will also help them stand out as high performers in the broader organization.

Also a recent MIT-Sloan Report reveals that at the enterprise level, ecological considerations have led to greater success for business.



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5 “Must Have” Soft Skills for Project Management



Project focused organizations and teams value soft skills because they help with the successful delivery of almost any project, particularly projects that require cross organization collaboration and projects that are complex and risky.

Here are our Top 5 “Must Have Soft Skills for Project Managers:”

  1. Emotional Intelligence
  2. Ethics and Integrity
  3. People Management
  4. Adaptive Communication
  5. Listening

1. Emotional Intelligence

In the enterprise, this soft skill describes a Project Manager’s self-awareness, their social awareness and their relationship awareness. Broadly speaking this means the ability they have to recognize their own emotions, as well as the emotions of the others contributing to the project. It is on our “must have” list because it includes the skill of regulating emotions in the right way, at the right time so PMs can handle challenging situations calmly and objectively. Developing this soft skill will enable PMs to:

  • Find common ground and build trust more easily with the people and stakeholders involved with the project.
  • Read the emotions of team members and empathize better.
  • Anticipate team dynamics by seeing how team members are interacting verbally and non-verbally.
  • Be open and adaptable to internal and external changes by staying focused on the big picture.
  • Be aware of personal stress and team stress and mindful of how this impacts productivity.

2. Ethics and Integrity

Of course ethics sounds like a no-branier on any list. However in the project world being honest about intentions, consistently transparent, accountable, and reliable in delivering commitments are hugely important things. It is number 2 on our list because each PM is actually a leader, and integrity is a sought after leadership quality in the enterprise.

PMOs recognize their project managers are not only representing the project they are working on, but also representing the company to their clients, executives and partners. For PMs, developing muscle around ethics and integrity also strengthens their personal brand within the team, and importantly, with management and customers. Here are some focus areas to strengthen this soft skill:

  • Accountability for keeping and delivering commitments you made.
  • Keeping actions consistent with your principles.
  • Taking on tough issues directly and honestly, especially when things go wrong.
  • Establishing a proactive communication process that is fiercely transparent.
  • Consistently making decisions fairly, without favoritism or prejudice.
  • Taking ownership and responsibility of the end result without shifting blame.

3. People Management

The key to delivering any project successfully is the people on the project team. Beyond the project team, a project manager will also need to be engaged with outside contributors, stakeholders and other people related to the project. Managing all the people involved in a project will require PMs draw on some of the previously mentioned soft skills such as self-awareness, the ability to empathize well, good communication and the ability to form trust based relationships. Ultimately the PMs mission is to move projects forward successfully. This means managing people - managing up, managing down, managing laterally and managing beyond the organization.

It is a broadly studied subject with many experts who know a lot, however, in the PM world having competency around People Management is so critical that it makes it onto our Top 5 “must do’ list. To develop these skills, here are 12 disciplines Project Managers can by attention to:

  • Stand up for your team always.
  • Clearly communicate a project vision and it’s goals.
  • Inspire and motivate others to secure their commitment.
  • Keep people focused on the big goal.
  • Create an environment where people cross-collaborate easily.
  • Support by removing barriers others may have.
  • Be personally engaged with all people involved in the project.
  • Share information transparently and receive information openly.
  • Stay positive and refrain from any complaining.
  • Handle personality differences by focusing people on achieving the task.
  • Tailor your motivational techniques to each individuals needs.
  • Manage up openly and often to avoid surprises.

4. Adaptive Communication

Developing a consistent, clear and proactive communications style is a “must do.” The ability to communicate anything about the project - plans, ideas and reviews – to anyone related to the project - staff, clients, partners and executives - in a way where you are heard, understood and recognized is critical for the success of your project.

Recognize that not all audiences are the same and the ability to flex communication styles and content so to deliver the right messages to the right audience at the right time is a valuable and important soft skill for project managers. Failing to adapt communication styles may compromise a PMs ability to influence executives, cooperate with partners or orchestrate cross organization teaming.

For example executives don’t want to see PM level details in a project review, rather than a high level summary. And vice-versa, project staff can’t operate on high level summary rather than a detailed project report. Project managers who are aware of the needs of each audience will be mindful of how best to communicate to them. Being proficient in adapting communications requires project managers:

  • Are aware of what is most important to the colleagues, staff, clients, partners and execs they are communicating with.
  • Flex their communication styles on-the-fly to fit the needs of their target audiences.
  • Are competent with multiple communication vehicles and can match the most the efficient medium for each audience.
  • Anticipate which issues could be triggers for their audience and are prepared to handle tough discussions.
  • Listen deeply, without emotion and are open to what is being communicated back.

5. Listening

What? Yes, listening made our PM “must do” list. Focused listening is a powerful soft skill in project management and one that is actually more difficult than it sounds on the surface. Many people say they are great communicators, but few may say they are really good at deep focused listening. Busy project managers are not prepared to do this kind of listening every day. It requires a disciplined effort to listen with a strong intention to understand what is really being communicated.

Listening deeply is an interpersonal skill that, not only helps PMs build trust with others, but also can help them detect un-anticipated risk early. For PMs some practices that can be incorporated into their daily work rhythms include:

  • Going into discussions prepared to listen without distraction.
  • Apply patience by not interrupting others and pausing before responding.
  • Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
  • Ask probing questions that enrich the discussion at the right moments.
  • Try to be aware of what purposely may not being communicated and why.

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are difficult to teach and therefore it is difficult for enterprises to provide effective training. For some PMs soft skills come naturally; others will need to learn them but they can be learned. Learning begins with awareness and a desire to improve. With awareness, PMs will see others around the company using soft skills and pay attention to those who have mastered one or several soft skills. But like anything it requires practice to improve, and those who apply a consistent focus on one or several of these soft skills will improve as Project Managers.


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Office Timeline integrates with Wrike

Stunning PowerPoint project visuals in 3 quick steps.


Your clients and leadership demand a lot from you as a project manager. In addition to driving project plans ahead, they also expect you to be excellent at communicating. Project managers are required to provide status communications across the organization at all levels and to all resources engaged on a project or on a portfolio of projects. Whether presenting plans or building executive support for your project, communications to stakeholders need to be done at a high-level in a clear and concise manner.


Executive communications

Presenting a conventional project schedule or Gantt chart may not be an effective way of communicating with executive audiences. Detailed charts showing all of a project’s tasks and dependencies may cause information overload for execs who typically want to see a summary. Regardless of whether you are presenting in person or communicating via email or as part of a project report being able to provide clear, concise, and easy-to understand information in a short amount of time is an important communication skill.


Different Project Visuals for different purposes

Wrike’s Gantt chart is an important way for you and your team to visualize your plans in real time. You can track tasks and their dependencies and see the critical path. The typical Wrike project may have a list of project tasks, their due dates and dependencies. This may not be appropriate for executive who need a simple snap-shot view that is easy for them to follow. Clients and Executives are familiar with PowerPoint so turning your project into a PowerPoint slide may be better suited for these audiences.


Office Timeline transforms your Wrike projects into impressive visuals

Office Timeline is a timeline maker add in built for Microsoft PowerPoint. With the Wrike and Office Timeline integration you can import your Gantt chart into PowerPoint. Office Timeline is built natively into PowerPoint so you can do this import from inside of PowerPoint. Part of that import process allows you to select which items you want displayed on your slide and which will stay hidden, helping you quickly get to a summary version that is more appropriate for exec presentations.


3 Simple steps for making a PowerPoint visual

1. Download and install Office Timeline Free edition from Office Timeline.

• Click on the New Timeline button on the Office Timeline tab inside of PowerPoint.

• From the New Timeline wizard click the IMPORT tab and select the Wrike button.

• In the log-in window enter your credentials and allow Office Timeline to access Wrike.



2. Import data from Wrike.

• Browse to the Wrike project you want or use the search field to find it.

• Select your project and click on the next arrow to import your data into a list view.



3. Choose which items you want add to your PowerPoint slide.

• From the list, select which tasks are to be included on your slide and which ones will be left off the slide. Pay attention to the number of tasks you are importing since you are trying to fit them all one slide.

• Click the Green check button once you are done.

• Office Timeline will instantly convert your data into a PowerPoint visual.


Customizing your visual

Office Timeline has Powerful features for customizing the style of your visual. Once it has been built you can use Office Timeline’s controls and PowerPoint’s controls make style customizations. For example you can change the shapes, positions and colors of any object or text. You can also project specific details such as duration and percent complete for your tasks. You can share your slide with anyone else who has PowerPoint and the can edit it too.




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7 Quick Tips for Leading Dynamic Project Teams



Perhaps you have heard the phrase “It’s a double edged sword”? It refers to something that has the power to bring on both negative implications and positive benefits simultaneously. This is particularly true for project managers who are working with stakeholders, team members and other resources.


Cross collaboration can be powerful and positive when well-managed, but it can also be destructive if is not nurtured. Skilled project managers effectively harness the collective power of their extended team to maximize productivity. Here are 7 techniques that may help you do this:

  1. The KISS Principle “Keep it Simple Stupid.” This philosophy suggests most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated. Consider that that others may not need, may not want or may not understand the level of detail that you may possess. It is a best practice to minimize complexity and simplify communication whenever possible.
  2. Define specific metrics. Having a measuring stick is essential for monitoring progress. Defining and getting consensus around a set of metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) is critical. These KPI's can be presented on a dashboard slide to track the overall success the project. When creating your KPI’s be specific and make sure to consider the needs of all stakeholders.
  3. Creating clear roles and responsibilities. Clearly defining the roles for each team member will help build structure needed for success. When managing tasks that may involve multiple contributors having a single point of responsibility is important. Only one person should be assigned accountability for each managing delivery of each task/role. Cleary establish this accountability with that person and set expectations early.
  4. Create a high-level timeline for reference. Publishing a summary timeline and keeping it highly visible to all project participants at all times will help maintain focus on the key milestones and important deliverables. Consistent visibility is a simple management technique – the more team members and stakeholders set it the more attention they will give it.
  5. Know your team and leverage their strengths. Harnessing the collective intelligence and experience of a team can create strong momentum. The true power of team projects is the unique ideas, insight, and experiences each person brings. Leveraging this power requires you inventorying the skill sets available to you. This means taking time to know each person’s strengths, then working to align those strength with the project’s needs.
  6. Consistently seek feedback. It is a good practice to ask team members and stakeholders for critical feedback. This creates an environment of trust and provides useful insights that may not have otherwise surfaced. It does not need to be done formally or as part of a process but be done simply with open ended questions and focused listing.
  7. Assess and adjust. Even the best project managers cannot predict all of the changes and unplanned surprises that will come up. Although unpredictable, changes should be anticipated and a process for making adjustments should be built in advance and ready to be used if necessary. Everyone on the team should be aware of this process, so adjustment can be made with agility.

Using some or all of these techniques will lead to more powerful project collaboration and they will help you avoid the dysfunction of poorly lead project teams.


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How to Communicate with Your Stakeholders



Managing communications with stakeholders is a critical task that project managers need to create and manage to a specific communion plan. Creating a consistent plan enables the flow of clear and relevant information to stakeholders. A predictable communication process allows PMs to manage expectations better and helps keep stakeholders engaged and supportive.

Here are 3 quick tips for effectively communicating with project stakeholders.


1.   Crafting Your Plan Early: Spend the time up-front to define your plan and processes for communicating up and out. Setting up a consistent cadence for stakeholder communication, creates a foundation of predictably for you and for them.

2.   Knowledge of Audience: Work to understand your stakeholders and what success looks like for all parties. Try to understand their interests in the project and how its performance affects them. Be aware of the key performance indicators (KPI), they use to determine success and risks along the way.

3.   Collaboration and Engagement: Your plan should include bi-lateral communication where you seek and receive stakeholder feedback openly and objectively. This will involve and keep them engaged throughout the project. A good time to do this may be around key project milestones.


Stakeholders want to be informed. Project Managers need to be strategic in building a project communication rhythm with relevant messaging that is tied to their interests. They also need to be proactive in soliciting feedback on progress and whether it is meeting stakeholder expectations. Doing these things not only keeps stakeholders engaged but it also keeps PMs ahead of potential issues that arise and can help them mitigate any disruption from non-supportive stakeholders.


Crafting a clear plan is not difficult but it does take some discipline. These three guidelines can be used as the foundation for that plan. The trick is to build a process that works for you and is something you can stick to. Along the way, monitor it to see what is working and change or enhance it as needed. Doing this will ensure stakeholders will be up to date and engaged, which will help you make the project the success you want it to be.


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