7 Ways to Grow Your Project Management Smarts


Nov 7th is the 9th annual International Project Management Day.

International Project Management Day is a day to be proud of working in project management and to recognize what project managers contribute to the world, one in which so much innovation and progress is due to projects.

I just listened to an interview with Frank Saladis, the founder of International Project Management Day. Here’s what he said.

Frank talked a lot about how project management makes the business world go round. Project Management is now a foundation for doing business in all industries from Technology to Construction to Marketing.

More importantly, Frank mentioned that a recent survey of companies revealed that the #1 skill most valued in a project manager is:



Now some of us might not think of ourselves as leaders (that’s just the CEO, right?), but in today’s world, a project manager is no longer a manager. He’s/she’s a leader, a specialist in his/her field and a generalist in everything else.


I’m not going to jump on a soapbox about the “things you should do to more like a leader”.

But I will say this about the business and project leaders that I admire – they are very resourceful  – a quality I admire and strive for.

So here are 7 ways to become a smarter, more resourceful project manager, project planner or scheduler.


1. Seek out a Mentor

Having a mentor to support, teach and guide you can be invaluable to your job and your career. I’ve worked with mentors and coaches for a long time and have always found I find more drive and focus because of these relationships.

Mentorship has a long tradition in project management and the rewards can be great for both a mentor, who has the reward of sharing his or her knowledge with someone less experienced, and the mentee who earns valuable knowledge, support, connections and experience.

If you don’t have one, consider finding a mentor. Many PMI chapters have a mentoring program. PMI also has some great tips to help you find a mentor.

But the most straightforward approach is to ask someone who you admire to explore taking on a mentor. If you can, I recommend partnering with someone from the opposite sex. You’ll be surprised what you learn when you see the world from a boldly different perspective.


2. Listen to Podcasts

Want to feel resourceful?

Learn a new concept and apply it immediately to your job. Podcasts give you access to interviews and thought-provoking stuff from thought-leaders in all industries.

Here are some of my favourites.


3. Take an Online Course

MOOCs are changing the way we deliver education. Massively Open Online Courses are offered from top universities like Harvard, MIT and Oxford.

Take Peter von Beulow’s Structures 2 course to learn about flinched beams, reinforced concrete and combining materials for construction. Or take Kent Ragan’s Financial Management course and take in all you can about asset valuation, risk and return, forecasting and financial analysis.

There are over 750 online courses you can try.



4. Learn to Communicate Better

Project personnel are good communicators, right? If you get project updates by text message, then think again.

Find out if your communicator skills stand up – take the Communications Skills Quiz over at MindTools. (I scored 62, and was 12 out of 15 in Decoding.)

After the quiz, be sure to check out all 75 Communications Articles from their communications mini-site to hone your craft. After all, when we’re all stressed out with project deadlines and shortages, clear communication becomes even more important.


5. Watch MegaBuilders

On Discovery channel.

Each episode follows a real construction project build team and their real challenges in building some of the world coolest structures.

I’m partial to the episode about the floating bridge build in Kelowna, Canada and use it often in my Primavera classroom training. It’s amazing how we make tons of concrete float!


6. Read Journals

If you’re more of an academic mind, then dig into some of the ground-breaking free journals available on the web to round-out your PM skills and knowledge. Some recommendations include:

If these don’t suit you, then search the Directory of Open Access Journals for a topic that interests you. There’s about 10,000 or so.


7. Play a Game

In the last few years, quite a few project management games have shown up. Nothing hones your skills like practice, and these games let you practice your skills, take risks and make mistakes in a complex simulated environment. Check them out!

With Virtunomics you can test your business and risk management skills in an economic simulation game. The best part is that it’s free and wildly popular.

Sharkworld isn’t free, but it looks seriously cool! It is THE project management simulation, where you are managing the build of a the world’s largest shark aquarium theme park – what can go wrong?  The game covers not only economic aspects, but also social aspects, conflict management and diplomatic skills.

For those board game lovers, there’s always Countdown – great for project team building exercises.


You and Project Management….

My goal in this post wasn’t so much to convince you to sharpen your project management skills by trying ALL of these resources as much as it was to encourage you to expand your mind.  All in all, if you really really want to excel in project scheduling, project planning, or project management, you’ll find a way. But be willing to explore deep and wide.

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