The second most important competency for a Project Manager

We learn fairly early through our project management experience or professional training that effective communications is a critical skill required to be successful in the role.  Gaps in communication capabilities are readily apparent – verbal and non-verbal feedback is usually a good way to know if one is consistently missing the mark.  Once such deficiencies have been identified and accepted, we can invest in development opportunities to better ourselves.

A greater challenge exists with what I consider to be the second most important competency for project managers – judgment.

You might question the merits of this selection relative to others such as organization skills or expectation management, so here are just a few of the situations in which a project manager’s judgment can impact the success or failure of a project.

  • Deciding when is the right time to escalate to a sponsor or senior stakeholder
  • Determining when it is appropriate to use a formal tool such as a decision request or change request
  • Figuring out how to go about resolving a challenging personality or performance issue with a team member
  • Making a recommendation to decision makers when faced with multiple options to respond to an issue
  • Determining the best way to engage stakeholders to work through a challenging scope vs. schedule/cost decision
  • Knowing when to accept information provided by team members or a stakeholder at face value, and when to push back or seek a second opinion

After considering this list, you’ll understand why many feel that project management is a profession of lifelong learning as the ability to make the right call in such scenarios cannot be taught in a class but can only be learned, albeit occasionally through the school of hard knocks!  As Jill Shalvis wrote in The Sweetest Thing “Good judgment comes from bad experience. Unfortunately, most of that comes from bad judgment.”





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