How do you manage a creative team

25 Key Project Management Skills You Need To Be Successful

At Asana, we believe that once you organize a project yourself, you are a project manager. In our opinion, this also applies if it is not explicitly stated in your job title. In order for teams to work together as effectively as possible and do the best possible work, a project manager in a leading position is required. But even if you already manage one or more projects, you can still manage one better Become a project manager. Here's how:

If you want to improve and develop your project management skills, you've come to the right place. In this guide, we'll talk about the 25 key skills you need to be a successful project manager and how you can develop those skills over time.

What are project management skills?

Project management is about managing and performing work effectively - and helping your team achieve the same. In the past, a project manager was a team member who received specialized training and certification in project management technology. Back then, the project management tools were difficult to set up and they were very maintenance-intensive. This created the classic job description of the "project manager".

Project management today differs from it in two ways. In order to enable generally applicable management processes, more and more team members and managers were needed who could plan a process from conception to final implementation. To support the executives, software was needed that could convert complex work processes into flexible and easy-to-use tools.

Today, modern project management tools are so flexible that they can be used by any team for any project without much preparation or prior knowledge. With today's project management tools, anyone can become a project manager and provide more clarity and transparency in their team. While you don't need advanced knowledge to be a good project manager, there are some soft and hard skills, as well as a few technical tricks, that you can use to become an even better project manager.

Some of these skills may not apply to you, other things you may already know. Still, we are sure that this list will help you develop additional skills to become an even better project manager.

10 soft skills for project managers

Soft skills belong to the “non-technical competencies” and are skills with which you can further improve your work without having to access a specific tool or a technical requirement. Soft skills are also referred to as "interpersonal skills" as they help to improve collaboration and empathy with colleagues. The following 10 competencies are the most important soft skills for project management:

1. Cooperation

Cooperation is the alpha and omega for every project manager, regardless of whether it is about soft skills, hard skills or technical competencies. In project management, it is precisely the cooperation that makes you a real team player. When you can work together effectively, you can better communicate with your team and do great, purposeful work.

In order to hone your collaborative skills, you should enter into a lively exchange with others. Open communication, fewer formalities and participation are essential for every collaborative team. For more tips on how to do this, check out our team collaboration guide article.

2. Communication

Effective communication is one of the most important skills in project management and crucial for successful cooperation. To be able to communicate better, you should be open and honest with your colleagues. This requires a high level of trust, both on your part and on the part of your colleagues. In order to create this basis of trust through open communication, you should encourage your team to bring your thoughts into the discussion - even if you do not share your views. Over time, this open communication will improve teamwork and bring work results to a higher level.

To further strengthen communication, you should work with your team to develop guidelines for communication. You probably use different communication software, such as email programs, Slack, or work management tools. Being clear about which tools are suitable for which communication scenario enables uncomplicated, effective communication and collaboration.

“If you want to make your team even more productive, try asynchronous communication. You will have to get your thoughts down on paper, but you will achieve a lot more in less time, as this method will save you the organization of many meetings. ”- Patti Chan, VP of Digital Product at Imperfect Foods

3. Teamwork

Teamwork means to support your team in every way and together to do a better job. Everyone on your team has a specific role, but only when you work together can your team work effectively. Cooperation is part of teamwork, but teamwork means even more and ensures that everyone feels in good hands and is motivated to make their contribution.

If you want to improve your teamwork skills, ask more questions. Get even more involved in team brainstorming sessions, one-on-one sessions, and refer to the contributions of all team members. Think about who hasn't said anything in a long time, or if there is a team member with a good idea or a particular skill that you could use.

[Download e-book: Teamwork in the sense of the corporate mission]

4. Problem solving

Problem solving is based on collaboration and flexibility. This is the only way you can approach a problem and ultimately solve it. Having problem-solving skills does not necessarily mean having the right solution for every problem. Rather, it is about looking at problems from all possible angles in order to develop new methods for finding solutions.

Do you want to become a better problem solver? Then we recommend that you question your decisions. Why did you choose a particular approach? Would there have been any alternatives? Even if the answer is no, it can be useful in your future approach to problem solving to reflect on your decisions.

“To make our meetings really productive, we value discussing open questions that require dialogue. This way we can work out a solution to the problem instead of just sending status updates back and forth. ”- Badrul Farooqi, Product Manager at Figma

5. Organization

For many project managers, organizing is the soft skill they fear most. You might think that organizational talent is something you either have or you don't. Wrong thought: Just like the other skills described here, you can improve and develop your organizational skills in order to become a true organizational talent yourself.

The best way to improve your organizational skills is to create (and maintain) a single source of information about your work and the work of your team. Often there is a lack of organization because the work itself is distributed and unorganized. Interesting to know: The average employee has to deal with a jumble of at least 10 tools every day. When your information is scattered all over the place, it makes sense that you feel disorganized. Instead of managing your work in 10 different tools, you'd better use an organizing tool like Asana so your team has a single source of information to access.

6. Time management

Time management and organizational skills are inextricably linked. The better you get at organizing your tasks, the clearer it becomes as to what things still need to be done and how much time pending tasks will take up.

Still, it can be difficult to pinpoint your work and prioritize it. To get better at managing time and putting a stop to procrastination, use a work management tool to keep track of the relative priorities of individual tasks. Once you are aware of which tasks are high priority, you can tackle them first. At the same time, you ensure that nothing is delayed or forgotten.

7. Leadership skills

When you manage a project, you are not only a project manager, but you also have a managerial role. Even if you do not see yourself in a leading position, your project team counts on your guidance, advice and support.

To improve your leadership skills, you should approach situations with empathy and understanding. Good leaders bring the team together and ensure teamwork and collaboration. We also encourage you to consider what type of leader you would like to be. There are various approaches to this, such as:

  • Servant leadership. If your main focus is serving your team's interests, the Servant Leadership approach might be of interest to you. The goal of a servant leader is to support the development of the team and optimize its performance.

  • Participatory leadership style. In this approach, also known as “democratic leadership style”, it is your job to encourage collaboration and joint decision-making.

  • Transformational leadership style. In the transformational leadership style, the leader focuses on realizing a certain vision for his team and working towards certain values ​​together with the team.

  • Autocratic leadership style. Autocratic leaders ensure clear project-related decisions and leave the project team little influence in the decision-making process. This approach can help teams focus more on project goals and make decisions faster.

  • Laissez-faire management style. This model promotes creativity and flexibility in the project team. “Laissez-faire” is French and in this context means that project staff have freedom of action.

“Asana gives me an overview, but it also makes sure my teammates don't get overwhelmed with content strategy tasks. We work separately, but we are always connected in a very special way. ”- Julia Lancaster, Marketing Content Strategist at Dow Jones

8. Adaptability

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point definitely: the time will come when your project plan will change. Perhaps the due date is shifting or your priorities change, which will require you to adjust your workflow accordingly. In this case, a good project manager is characterized by adapting to the new situation and thus steering the project team back in the right direction.

Adaptability means knowing when and how to correct the course. Without an overview of what is going on, it can be difficult to determine the best course of action. To be truly adaptable, you have to be up to date on everything in your project. This works best with a work management tool.

9. Conflict resolution

Conflicts are almost inevitable during a project. There may be disagreements about the priority of certain outcomes. Perhaps a stakeholder wants to change the scope of the project, or you have exceeded budget or missed a deadline.

Conflict resolution is about listening to both parties to the conflict so that everyone can express their point of view and feel supported. When someone feels deprived, take the time to listen and come up with a solution that will work for everyone. Even if this is not always possible, patience and empathy are important for the discussion and can defuse a potentially frustrating situation for those involved - and lead to a better result.

[Worth reading: How you can give and accept constructive criticism]

10. Critical thinking

Like problem solving, critical thinking does not provide a universal solution. There are no winners in critical thinking, but you can use logic to address problems instead of making decisions based on your emotions. A good critical thinker is skilled at analyzing available information and drawing conclusions based on facts. Like the master detective Sherlock Holmes solves a riddle.

To improve critical thinking, pause for a moment and ask yourself: How did I come to this conclusion? Could there be another answer? Was my decision influenced by anything other than facts? Emotional choices aren't necessarily a bad thing. Many of the best decisions we make are about things that move us personally. However, critical thinking helps here to become aware of whether you are seeing the situation from the right perspective.

“I don't want to focus on the bottom line alone. The method we used on the way to the result is just as important. Asana has been of great help in making the work transparent, actionable. ”- Arune Singh, Vice President of Marketing at BOOM! Studios

7 hard skills for project managers

In contrast to soft skills, hard skills are quantifiable, learnable competencies. The above soft skills are important for every imaginable situation, but the following seven hard skills are specifically relevant for project management. By developing these seven skills, you will become a more competent, efficient project manager.

1. Record the scope of the project

The project scope includes the size, goals and limits of a project. The project scope defines what you can achieve in a certain period of time with a certain budget. By defining the scope of the project, you can avoid unplanned effort. Unplanned effort occurs when the results of your project exceed the scope of the project.

In order to better understand the scope of the project, you should define the scope of the project early and repeatedly. Once you've established the scope of the project, you can share it with stakeholders and refer to it regularly so everyone is clear about the goals and limits of the project. You can find more tips in our guide on the subject of unplanned effort.

"We've been able to reduce the number of products we have over-sold while reducing the number of times we have to ask customers for understanding about late deliveries" - Andrea Georgi, E-Commerce Director at The Citizenry

2. Strategic project planning

A project strategy plan is an overview of the key results, milestones, and timing of a project. Project strategy plans are particularly useful for complex projects with many participants, as they help the entire project team to pull in the same direction - even before the project even starts.

Project strategy plans are usually created in the form of a Gantt chart in order to show the rough schedule of your project in a horizontal bar chart. When creating a project strategy plan, a tool like our timeline is recommended to show a rough schedule, significant milestones and important dependencies in your project.

3. Creation of a project briefing

Even if you don't create a project strategy plan, you could still benefit from a project briefing. A project briefing outlines the project goals and how you can achieve them. A project briefing serves as the starting point for future planning.

Always keep in mind that your project briefing is a living document: as you develop your project plan and receive input from stakeholders, you can adjust and update your project briefing. Your project briefing should include a link to your project strategy plan (if there is one), a list of stakeholders and their roles (sometimes called a RACI diagram), other relevant documents, files, or overarching information that may be useful for your team.

“It is important to give management an overview and insight into the projects. This allows us to get a quick overview of the current status at any time. ”- Jeana Abboud, COO at Social Factor

4. Project kick-off meeting

A kick-off meeting offers an opportunity to get in touch with those involved in your project. Here you have the opportunity to present the project goals and scope and to share documents that have already been created, such as your project strategy plan, your project briefing or other documents such as a material list for a marketing campaign or a creative briefing for a design team.

If you want to make your kick-off meeting as successful as possible, you should share the documents you have created with those involved in the project. You can then have a brainstorming or Q&A session to clarify questions about other variables such as budget, resources, or bottom line results.

5. Project planning

Basically, a project plan (sometimes called a project charter) is a framework for the most important parts of your project to make it a complete success. Typically, a project plan contains seven elements:

  1. aims
  2. Success metrics
  3. Project participants and roles
  4. Project budget
  5. Milestones and deliverables
  6. Time schedule
  7. Project communication plan

Some of these things, such as your goals or milestones, may already have been mentioned in your project strategy plan or project description. All these components come together in your project plan and result in a representative overall picture of the work to be done. To get started with project planning, you can read our guide to creating project plans or use our free project plan template.

“At the beginning of the year, we spend a lot of time planning what our vision will be for the months ahead and what we want to achieve by the end of the year. Once that's done, we will summarize the results in a project that anyone can see. The visual representation in Asana makes it easy to customize things. ”- Sheryl Chopra, Project Manager at IPG Mediabrands

6. Create a project timeline

Your project timeline describes the sequence and duration of events over the course of the project lifecycle. Using a project timeline, your team can keep projects going on schedule and delivering the right materials at the right time.

A good project timeline can only come about if you clearly define the start and end times and the important milestones of your project. When creating individual tasks and setting results, you can establish dependencies between individual tasks and set the start and end dates of each task. The only thing missing now is a timeline tool that you can use to bring your work to life.

7. Task management

Task management means how effectively you organize your own time and your team's time when your project is already up and running. Good project managers have an overview of what their team is working on so they can help their team prioritize and execute their work.

Of course, you are not a clairvoyant and may not be aware of everything that is going on in your project. This is where task management software comes in. Task management is more than a to-do list: You get a holistic overview of the ongoing work in your project. With good task management, your team will work more productively, more effectively and more profitably.

“With Asana, we can see project progress, identify potential bottlenecks, collect feedback, and identify required actions in one central location. Now we can do our work more efficiently, which has become more important in the age of location-independent work. It wouldn't be possible without Asana. ”- Sarah Elliott, VP, Global Product Marketing, Integral Ad Science

8 key technical project management skills

Soft skills: checked. Hard skills: of course. Now all that remains is the technical skills that you can master together with us!

Technical competencies are defined as the knowledge of certain tools and software in project management. The tools aren't difficult to learn - as mentioned earlier, project management today is flexible and easy to use. These eight skills are aspects of project management that you should be familiar with in order to use them effectively and at the right time.

1. Gantt charts

Gantt charts are a way of presenting project information as horizontal bar charts. Each bar shows how long it takes to get a particular job done. Gantt charts have a number of essential functions, including:

  • Project milestones
  • Dependencies
  • Real-time insights into project progress
  • Start and end dates

Traditional Gantt charts can be limited in scope and difficult to use. At Asana, we picked the best of the Gantt approach and used it to create the timeline. With a Gantt tool, you can see how each work is broadly related.

“If you want to release an album, there is a lot to consider. Asana helps us keep track of all the details, responsibilities, and due dates. ”- Brett Gurewitz, CEO, Epitaph Records

2. Kanban boards

Another popular project management tool is the [Kanban board (/ resources / what-is-kanban). Here each column stands for a work section, such as New, In processing or Done. Individual work processes are displayed as cards that automatically move from one column to the next when they are completed.

Kanban board tools are a popular visual aid for lean project management and are particularly suitable for product, development, and software development teams. In Asana, Kanban is one of the four project views that give teams the opportunity to present their work based on their preferences.

[Worth reading: Kanban boards for beginners]

3. Agile management

Agile management is a lean project management approach that is particularly popular with product, development, and software development teams. Agile describes a system of continuous improvement and gradual evolution. It includes several lean approaches, such as Scrum or Kanban.

To manage an agile team, an agile management tool is suitable, with which your team can remain flexible and adjust results afterwards.

4. Cost management

When it comes to project management, there is usually no avoiding keeping the budget in mind for every phase of the project. Cost management is an important part of running a project and is critical to whether a project is successful or not. Working on budget is just as important. Timely delivery and cost management will help you.

In order to be able to manage costs sustainably, good project managers need to set costs and budget at the beginning of the project. Make sure that everyone involved in the project and team is aware of the budget. In the case of the project itself, it is then important not to lose sight of costs and budget. You should review your expenses several times during the project so that you don't end up going over budget. Once the project is complete, you can compare the planned costs with the actual costs. This will let you know how effective your cost management has been and give you a starting point for future projects.

5. Change management

If you've ever overseen a major change in your company, consciously or unconsciously, you have been change management. Change management describes the process by which company-wide changes are introduced. This includes, for example, the introduction of new processes or tools over a certain period of time in order to increase acceptance and reduce complications. In change management, one workflow after the other is typically introduced and there are also internal champions who make the change process as smooth as possible.

At Asana, we speak of Asana Change, a six-step process developed by our Customer Success team that includes proven approaches to change management. You can find out more about this in our change management guide.

“So far, our creative team has only responded to work requests. Without a clear process, however, we will never do the work we can. ”- Joe Tornatzky, Art Director, Gear Patrol

6. Project management software

Project management software has come a long way from the tools of the past. They are no longer complicated to use and no longer require a specialized project manager. However, one thing remains a fact: no matter how simple and user-friendly software is, practice still makes perfect. The tool of your choice should have a manual as well as tutorial videos so you can learn the tool by heart.

In our opinion, Asana is of course the tool of choice. Asana is a work management tool (or work management tool) that you can use to coordinate your planning, projects, and operations across the company. While project management helps you to gain clarity about individual projects, work management is the best way to coordinate processes across projects, plans and teams. With a work management tool, everyone receives the information they need to achieve the best possible work results.

[Worth reading: work management vs. project management: what's the difference?]

7. Management of the workload

If you've managed a project before, you may know how difficult it can be to get clarity about who is working on what. It doesn't have to be. By managing the workload, you can find out how busy your team is and ensure that the individual members are neither under nor overburdened. This is an interactive process that has neither an initial status nor an end status. In practice, a good project manager always has the workload of his team in the back of his mind and ensures that nobody suffers burnout.

There are two steps involved in using workload management software. First, determine the capacity and current workload of the team. Step two is to then allocate the resources on the basis of the individual workload or to adjust the workload as required.

8. Project portfolio management

With project portfolio management you get an overview of the work of your team across multiple projects. Project portfolio management tools help to gain a holistic real-time overview of the work in the team so that you can adapt the work in line with your strategy.

“The portfolio feature in Asana is extremely important to our team. This gives the management team an overview of the higher-level work processes in a central location and learns more about the status, progress and responsibilities. Our CEO accesses the portfolios on a daily basis and leaves comments. It is very useful for him to have a quick overview of the work in progress. ”- Michael Chidgey, PMO & Program Manager, SiteMinder

How to develop your project management skills

25 different skills sounds like a lot. Remember, however, that you don't have to be very good at every single skill on our list. Some, such as the agile approach, are only relevant for appropriate teams. Others, such as organizational skills, have become very easy with practical tools like Asana.

Always remember that developing project management skills takes work. Make a resolution to first focus on one or two new skills for your projects. This could be, for example, to use a new visual representation of project management as a Kanban board, to create your first project plan or to deal with time management.

There is also training available to help you improve your hard and soft skills in project management. While you no longer need certifications to call yourself a project manager, the Project Management Institute offers courses, training and the first official project management guide "Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" (also called PMBOK® Guide) at.

Once you've decided on a project management tool, you can take courses to develop technical project management skills. At Asana, we offer the Asana Academy and How Asana Works to introduce new project managers to soft and hard skills as well as technical competencies.

Your project management toolkit

If you manage a project, you are a project manager - and you may already have important project management skills. The most important thing, however, is to develop a clear strategy, to listen to your team and to work closely with the team members. The rest will come by itself.

Would you like to find out more? Try Asana for project and work management and see for yourself.