Project management is a skill that can be learned, but it is also an art that requires experience to perfect. It is something that can be taught in a classroom setting. There are plenty of books and online courses on project management, but the best way to learn how to be a good project manager is by actually managing projects. This means gaining hands-on experience and learning from your mistakes. The most successful project managers have years of experience under their belts and have learned everything the hard way.
What is project management experience?
Project management experience typically means having a fair amount of knowledge and understanding of project planning, task scheduling, procurement, budgeting, risk management, project leading, and conflict resolution. It can also include experience with specific project management software tools and applications.
It also generally means having experience leading teams through the implementation of projects and ensuring that all stakeholders are satisfied with the result.
What makes experience in project management valuable?
Having prior experience in managing projects is valuable because it provides you with skills and abilities you can use on the new project.
While it is undoubtedly possible to forge a successful career in project management without any previous experience, it is often an asset to have managed projects in the past.
That demonstrates your understanding of the process, which means that you have led teams through all stages of the project life cycle, from planning and execution to closure.
What experience do you need in project management?
A strong foundation in management principles can be just as helpful — if not more so. After all, good project management is rooted in sound managerial practices. That said, it is beneficial to have specific background knowledge, so here are 15 examples of project management experience:
1. Managing stakeholders
As a project manager, you deal with different stakeholders daily. One of the most critical skills a project manager must possess is managing and navigating complex stakeholder relationships.
The key to managing difficult stakeholders is understanding their motivations and concerns. Once you know what drives them, you can start finding common ground and building trust.
Only some will always be happy, but it is your job to ensure everyone has a voice and that you are all moving toward the same goal. Open communication and transparency are essential to successful stakeholder management.
2. Thinking about the project plan
It is essential to always think about changes in the context of your project plan. Every change can impact your project’s schedule, budget, and overall outcome.
As a project manager, it is your job to anticipate potential changes and ensure you have contingencies to deal with them.
Some changes are reasonable. In fact, many changes can be suitable for a project — for example, if a new customer comes on board or someone comes up with a better way to do something.
It is essential to be flexible and open to change when it represents an improvement for your project. But at the same time, you do not want to let things get out of control by allowing changes to be made without proper planning and consideration.
As a project manager, you need to think about changes and how they impact the project plan in two ways:
How will the change impact the schedule? Will it delay the project or cause us to miss our deadline? How will the change impact our budget? Will it require more resources or incur additional costs?
By considering these factors first, you can then decide if there is a need to amend your project plan and make appropriate adjustments. If the change negatively impacts either of those two factors, then you need to reassess whether or not the change is still worth making.
Read also: 10 Key Strengths of a Project Manager
3. Understanding the critical path
Experience with critical path analysis is necessary, as it is a crucial part of project management. The critical path is the sequence of activities that determines the shortest overall duration for a project.
It allows you to see the dependencies between tasks and ensure that the project moves forward as quickly as possible.
You use it to identify any potential bottlenecks and take steps to remove them. It is essential to stay on schedule and meet deadlines, so managing the critical path is essential.
Any changes or delays to one of the tasks on the critical path can impact the entire project timeline. That is why it is vital to be proactive and anticipate potential problems that could delay the project.
Using critical path analysis, you can keep your projects on track and ensure they are completed on time and within budget. In other words, the analysis allows you to make more informed decisions about how best to manage risk and stay on schedule.
4. Leading teams
As a project manager, you oversee all aspects of a project and delegate tasks to team members. You must have excellent leadership and communication skills to motivate your team and keep the project on track.
To lead a team for a multi-faceted project, the project manager should first develop a comprehensive plan with specific milestones and deadlines. You will then need to break down the plan into smaller tasks that can be delegated to your team members.
It is essential to ensure that each team member clearly understands their role and what is expected of them. You must also be available to provide support and guidance when needed.
To stay organized and on track, regular status updates should be provided to both the team and stakeholders.
5. Dealing with uncertainty
As a project manager, you always try to plan for every possible contingency, but some uncertainty inevitably arises. When it does, try to stay calm and focused, and make decisions based on the best information available.
It is also essential to communicate openly with stakeholders and team members when uncertainty arises to keep everyone up-to-date and understand what is happening. This helps to avoid any misunderstandings or assumptions that might cause problems down the road.
No project is ever without risk, but by being proactive and planning for potential problems, you can minimize the impact of any unexpected developments. And remember, even if you can’t eliminate all uncertainty from a project, you can always manage it.
6. Keeping an open mind
No two projects are the same. So, as a project manager, it is your job to be flexible and adapt to the constantly changing environment of each project.
Every new project is unique, with its challenges and requirements. When managing a new project, you cannot rely entirely on experience and preconceived notions.
Of course, some general best practices should always be kept in mind when managing projects. But remember that every project is different, and you must tailor your approach accordingly.
You must constantly assess the situation and make decisions based on the current reality.Adaptability is one of the critical skills that separates successful project managers from the rest.
7. Evaluating proposed solutions
Good examples of project management experience include an experienced project manager using analytical skills to evaluate proposed solutions against pre-established criteria to choose the most effective option.
This may include factors such as feasibility (Can the solution be implemented?), cost (What will it cost to implement the solution?), and impact on customer satisfaction (How does this solution compare to other potential solutions?).
By evaluating each proposed solution against these criteria, a project manager can decide which solution is most likely to succeed. That process helps ensure that the most suitable and fitting solution is chosen for the given task, maximizing efficiency and success.
By adhering to a set of predetermined standards, a project manager can avoid making decisions based on personal preference or bias and instead make choices that will have the most significant positive impact on the project.
Read also: 15 Examples of Commitments
8. Managing multiple tasks
Another good example of project management experience is when an experienced project manager manages multiple tasks without becoming overwhelmed or stressed because he has a system for managing his time and resources.
To manage multiple tasks effectively, you must first establish priorities. Then you develop a plan for completing each job and set deadlines.
You must establish checkpoints throughout the process to ensure everything is on track. By following this process, an experienced project manager can minimize the risk of becoming overwhelmed or stressed while completing multiple tasks simultaneously.
9. Understanding of quality assurance
To avoid costly re-work and delays, the project manager understands the value of quality assurance throughout all stages of the project life cycle.
Quality assurance ensures that the product or service meets the customer’s requirements and is delivered on time and within budget.
As a project manager, you must work closely with the quality assurance team to establish standards and procedures for testing and reviewing products and services.
The team also evaluates processes and procedures to ensure they meet customer requirements and are practical and efficient. By monitoring quality control measures, you can ensure that problems are identified early before they cause costly delays or re-work.
10. Identifying potential risks
An experienced project manager has seen many potential risks associated with a project and has developed contingency plans to address them.
Risks that need to be appropriately managed can have a severe impact on the success of a project. For example, a risk not identified and mitigated early on could result in delays or cost overruns later in the project timeline.
Of course, there is no guarantee that every risk will be avoided. Even with a well-executed risk management plan, things can still go wrong. But by planning for as many eventualities as possible, the project manager can reduce the chances of any major problems occurring.
In some cases, it may even be necessary to re-evaluate the entire project plan if a new risk arises that was not anticipated.
11. Working with project management software
Project management software is a valuable tool for managing projects of all sizes. An experienced project manager will be familiar with various project management software applications and know how to use them effectively to manage project tasks, resources, and timelines.
Working with project management software can help the project manager to stay organized and on track with project tasks, communicate with team members and stakeholders, monitor project progress and performance, and identify and address risks early on.
12. Building trust
While all traits are most certainly important, the ability to maintain a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity, is the most critical.
Project managers are responsible for ensuring that their team stays on track and meets deadlines despite any obstacles that may come up along the way. This can be challenging, especially when things start to go wrong.
A project manager who can maintain a positive attitude and stay focused on the goal will be more effective in getting their team through difficult times.
Also, the ability to build and maintain trust is crucial. Trust is essential for any successful relationship.
When trust is absent, people are always looking over their shoulders, second-guessing each other’s motives. This can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and increased costs as everyone tries to cover their own back.
An experienced project manager understands that trust needs to be earned and builds relationships with team members and stakeholders, knowing it will pay off in the end.
Also read: 15 Examples of Taking Ownership
13. Managing the project scope
The most common challenge that project managers face is scope creep. Scope creep often occurs when the stakeholder asks for additional features or changes to be added to the project after it has already begun, which can impact the timeline and budget.
A good project manager can prevent scope creep by implementing a good governance process. The governance process lays out the specific steps that need to be followed to make changes to the project plan and defines who has the authority to make changes.
Scope creep can quickly happen when a project needs to be appropriately defined and managed. So it is critical to have a clear vision for the project and to stick to the agreed-upon requirements as closely as possible.
You must set clear boundaries and expectations from the beginning and ensure that all stakeholders agree about what is and isn’t included in the project.
Changes should only be made if absolutely necessary and will not delay the project or increase costs. If changes are required, get approval from all stakeholders before implementing them.
14. Allocating budgets and resources
As a project manager, one of your primary objectives is to ensure that the resources allocated to each project are used efficiently. This requires you to develop budgets and track actual spending against those budgets so that I can make adjustments as needed.
You must be mindful that your budget is finite, so you must choose which resources are allocated to each project. This can be challenging, as you need to balance the project’s needs with the available resources.
In some cases, it may be necessary to turn down opportunities that can benefit the project but have to come at a too high cost in terms of expense or manpower. In other cases, delay projects until you have the necessary resources available.
15. Handling milestones
You use milestones to track the progress of your project. A milestone is a point in time or event marker on a timeline that signifies a significant achievement or delivery related to the project.
Milestones are typically established at the beginning of a project and can be revised as needed. They can be based on specific deliverables such as completing design drafts, finishing a prototype, a launch date, or shipping products.
The milestone management process includes identifying, setting target dates, and monitoring progress. It is vital to ensure that milestones are realistic and achievable and align with the overall project objectives.
Project management skills and experiences are essential for successfully leading and executing projects. There are a variety of project management examples that can be applied to different situations.
The key is identifying the right skills and experiences for the specific project. Project managers can use hard and soft skills to effectively plan, manage, and execute their projects.