What are the key predictors of success in project management? The skillful planning of a project’s scope of work, resources needed, and other elements might seem to have the greatest impact. But according to G. Michael Campbell, PMP, president of MCA International, the effective use of softer skills such as communication and stakeholder engagement is a stronger indicator of project success.
Project managers must be able to build business connections and engage stakeholders to see their projects succeed, said Campbell in a podcast interview with AMA. “You can’t think that I’ll just follow my checkboxes and that will be success. It’s not that simple. Projects are too complex in most cases,” noted Campbell, the author of Succeeding with Senior Management: Getting the Right Support at the Right Time for Your Project (AMACOM, 2017).
Beyond the technical skills of project management
Project managers need to be proactive in gaining the support of project sponsors and building relationships. Campbell provides these pointers in the podcast:
Become a trusted advisor to the project sponsor. A committed sponsor is important to the success of a project, said Campbell. To get sponsors on board, project managers must demonstrate behaviors that engender trust. These behaviors include credibility (the sponsor can believe what you say), reliability (the sponsor can depend on you), and consideration (the sponsor knows you care about him or her and the business).
In addition, project managers cannot play the “no bad news” game with sponsors. As Campbell notes, senior executives operate in a political environment, and they can’t afford to be surprised by any problems or negative perceptions surrounding a project. “As proactive project managers, one of the things you have to do in that environment is make sure your sponsor is never surprised,” he said.
Learn to build relationships. Relationship building may not come naturally to all project managers, but it’s a competency that can be acquired. Campbell suggests that learning to build relationships involves the same type of approach you might take to solving a technical problem. “It’s not like you can’t learn this—it’s some sort of mystery…. It’s exactly the same sort of methodology you use when you are trying to be creative in solving an engineering problem or trying to be creative in solving a programming problem,” he said.
Recognize the value of strong communication. When Campbell interviewed project managers from around the world for a large global client, they identified effective communications as the number one predictor of project success.
“If communications were good within the project team—and if communications were good between the project team and the broader business that they were servicing—then you could almost predict a successful project,” Campbell said. “If there were problems in communication, then you almost always saw issues.”
Listen to the full podcast with G. Michael Campbell.
AMA’s project management training builds skills in project planning and execution, stakeholder management, team leadership, the management of multiple projects, and more.