The human side of project management

The human side of project managementProject management hiring managers tend to place a lot of emphasis on two things: experience managing multi-million dollar projects, and PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. Both great line items to list on a resume.

But if you’re an experienced project manager, then you are well aware that someone who has experience managing projects and who has earned their PMP certification might very well not be an effective project manager. Even someone without the skills required to lead and direct projects can coast along as a project manager for a few years, and eventually have the required education and work experience to sit for the PMP exam.

One skill that project managers need to have to be an experienced project manager is the human touch. Project managers who sit behind their data and make calls based on project statistics are not going to be effective when it comes to managing projects. Project managers need to have a handle on the human relationships involved with bringing different people with different skill sets together to achieve the remarkable.

Project managers need to:

  • Be able to handle drama. Often difficulties will arise – conflicts, often of the human variety – that project managers will need to understand and, if not help to resolve, work around. Issues like these are hard to label as risks, and if you try to indicate these risks in a risk register, people may be offended. But they are certainly risks. Only by managing the people involved with the project can you move forward in this situation.
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual team member. I often see people named as “resources”, and treated as interchangeable.
    • We’ve got a consultant coming in, so he can simply take over your lead developer’s role, and you can get the job done.”
    • “If you take this software developer off of this project and stick him on this other one, you can simply transfer his 8 story points’ worth of work from this project to that project.”

    If you’re an experienced project manager, you know that this is simply not the case. People have different skills and, quite honestly, some people are simply more skilled than others at certain jobs. If you know your resources well, you can better predict the outcome of projects and better manage budgets and timelines.

There are plenty of other examples of ways that knowing the human side of project management is of crucial importance. If you can think of any others that you have experienced in your own project management career, please be sure to let me know!

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About the Author


Website: Brian Crawford
I'm a Canadian and British dual citizen with an internationally-focused American MBA and an MS in International Project Management from a French business school. I am PMP, ScrumMaster, and ITIL Foundation certified. I'm particularly into travel, writing, and learning about different languages and cultures.