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Soft Skills – Introduction to the Practical Project Management Series

Soft Skills – Introduction to the Practical Project Management Series. This is the first blog of Lex van der Heijden for this blog. Let me begin to introduce myself.

During more than 30 years I’m active walking in the international ICT world in many roles. My last role was at IBM Global Services as IBM certified Senior Project Manager (which is a certification after the PMI certification has been achieved).

I am also father a young lady with a rare disease for which I have founded a global non-profit organization (see in 1997. Since 1997 I’m the president of this organization.

In September 2014 I have started with the third year of a three year course as ‘holistic psychotherapist’. This training is both intended for personal development as well as to gain insight into human behavior, its causes and to help others.

Project Management in my view is a very challenging role which requires both domain knowledge and experience. I call this the “hard skills”. Since each project is done with people the ability to deal with people is crucial. These are the ‘soft skills’. In my view, the latter is crucial. Is a project successful when delivered what was agreed, within budget and within the time when the parties are dissatisfied and burned out? Will be reclaimed as a Project Manager do you think? Will the team next time want to do a project with you again?

In most Project Management models often only the parameters of time, cost and scope are being described. Where is the ‘human being’? A project is still performed by people and ultimately for the benefit of man?

Another important parameter is the environmental impact of a project, which is called ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR). Practically every company nowadays has a section on CSR in the annual report and/or on their website. Many clients look at this and take this into consideration as well in the award of a contract.

As Project Manager you must have a feeling for example for interpersonal relationships, people with hidden agendas/interests and realize that the only constant is … change.

imageAt the start of a project, run a stakeholder and influencer ‘analysis with the aim to determine how they stand in relation to your project. Who are the supporters and opponents, for example? What does the organization look like in which your project is implemented? How is the ‘old boys’ network (a very important informal network with major influence) and what other social networks are active within the overall organization? Who actually take decisions?

In the course of time can occur here shifts so this is not a one-time action. People can change their mind or get other positions such as by a promotion.

Relationship management is important and in particular will pay off when things do not go as planned (and the latter is a guarantee) so working relationships with all stakeholders.

Finally, my opinion about “expectation management.” How often is this mentioned in ads for vacancies? To date, I have still not met anyone who’s thoughts, expectations, another can read. The solution is simple … put the expectations on paper by mutual agreement and verify these regularly. The expectations are (obviously) SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) and need to be recorded. See capturing expectations (apply change management as well!) the same as capturing the ‘requirements’ of the project.