A Brief Skills Refresh

A Brief Skills Refresh

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  • Andreas Rieger
    Andreas Rieger Executive Director Internal Operations, IT & Project Management, designaffairs

Confession time: I never planned on becoming a project manager. After all, why should I specialize in something that isn’t even defined properly? Why should I be the guy doing the work nobody else wants to do? And why should I do something that nobody taught me to do?

Even though people might be overseeing similar types of projects repeatedly – in everything from building nuclear power stations, skyscrapers, and airports to making new discoveries in space and managing software implementations, they constantly encounter new clients, technologies, tools, project team members, etc. Project management is an ever-changing daily experience – and that’s why I love it!

Project definition

As far as defining a project goes, let’s take the official definition as per DIN 69901, and combine it with some of my own thoughts:

  • A project is always unique. You can’t do the same thing twice! I guess this is something I always found attractive – you can’t copy/paste and you can’t mass produce a project.
  • A project always has a distinct start and enddate. I like this about projects, in comparison to repeating the same kind of work over and over. In my opinion, projects don’t always have a distinct start and end – instead, there’s usually a loose start date and, typically, one day, the project ends, either because the desired outcome has been achieved, the mission has been completed, the whole thing has been killed off or the money has run out.
  • The three other attributes that are required if we are to call something a project are: There are one or more objectives, the “thing” is complex,and there are at least two different disciplines

Project manager

To be a project manager, in my experience, requires a certain degree of curiosity, courage and being stupid enough to raise your hand before anybody else does so. I am not judging here but when you select a project manager, you might not want to pick someone who goes to the same location on vacation every year.

I still see a lot of instances when sponsors are looking for an individual who can manage a project on budget, in time and with quality, but fail to find the right match.

In other words, a person who has the right management skills, can handle constant changes, and possesses the character to not despair when things are not happening the way the original plan was meant to work out. Consider a project manager as a person of flexibility, creativity, perseverance, and vigilance. Think of an interpreter, a lion tamer, a trainer, a coach, and a servant.

In order to keep project managers up to date, designaffairs project managers meet every second week.
In order to keep project managers up to date, designaffairs project managers meet every second week.

Project-management elements

The first complex project I managed involved the preparation and implementation of a German sales and marketing application in the US over a 12-month period. Back then, I had only a rough idea of the things a project manager is expected to do. And all of them were in a category that we call “Technical Competences”. I also came across other elements in the project which I didn’t consider to be relevant to project management, such as “Personal and Social Competences” and “Context Competences”.

Only after understanding that the full range of competences make the story complete did the scales fall from my eyes.

To summarize, this is what is generally understood to fall within each of these three categories:

Technical Competences – Project Design; Requirements and Objectives; Scope and Deliverables; Sequencing and Deadlines; Organization, Information and Documentation; Quality; Costs and Funding; Resources; Procurement; Planning and Controlling; Chances and Risks; Stakeholder Management; Change and Transformation

Personal and Social Competences – Self-Reflection and Self-Management; Personal Integrity and Reliability; Face-to-face Communication; Relationships and Engagement; Leadership; Teamwork; Conflicts and Crisis Resolution; Versatility; Negotiating Skills; Results Orientation.

Context Competences – Strategy; Governance, Structure and Processes; Compliance and Standards; Power and Interests; Culture and Values.

[Source: Project Management Competences and Elements | Source: ICB 4.0, IPMA/GPM]

Another question I get asked constantly is: Do we really need to cover all these elements in every project? Well, there is only one answer: YES!

The complexity of the project allows you to adjust the intensity of the individual competence or element, but you cannot leave any element out. Think about one of your projects. I am sure you covered every item, consciously or unconsciously. Without any prior PM knowledge, you might find it difficult mapping theses terms with your experiences but, for most of them, you probably have a fair idea what they’re all about.

In Chapter 02 | Project Management: Best Practices, I will share best practices, powerful tools, and tips and tricks with you. Stay tuned!

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