Do Middle Managers need Project Management Skills?
Middle managers often feel a bit trapped. They are caught between the CEO and the rank and file; the proverbial rock and the hard place. Middle managers must mediate, negotiate, and motivate all of the time and that is not easy. Their skill set must contain a number of talents to be used at a minute’s notice. Project management skills are part of it.
That could sound a little odd because project management will ordinarily deal with clients outside of the work area. But, a middle manager must remember that there is an internal market of clients and stakeholders concerned with the achievement of goals and objectives. Interaction is going to be needed. Moreover, the same management skills to keep members of the team on task are necessary. The most important project management skill that crosses all boundaries is listening. Middle managers must be able to hear what is being said and process how this will affect the goals of his or her unit. As with project management, what is communicated will determine the resources needed and what challenges have to be met. Those limitations can also be personal. A middle manager has to be able to assess the skill level of their team, and determine what resources may be needed to compensate for any skill deficiency.
Being organized is a critical component of project management and the same is true for middle management. Execution depends on being able to do what is necessary at the right time.
Planning is a discipline that middle managers must have because few goals are met by impulsive decisions. Benchmarks so important to project management need to be a part of the planning.
Measures that are established will help quickly identify where trouble is either occurring, or about to happen. If a middle manager can develop the mindset which allows for goals to be broken down into measurable objectives, and developing the procedures to reach them, that person will be better able to stay on target and get results when they are expected. That, by the way, is all part of good project management. Project management is deadline oriented. It creates a sense of urgency that helps motivate action. Middle managers should be able to direct activity with deadlines in mind; be they weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The timetables behind meeting deadlines help keep things organized and the work flow moving. It goes without saying these timetables keep subordinates on their toes and productive as well.
Middle managers must also be cost effective. It isn’t just budget figures but time management and utilization of human resources at hand. The latter is critical because too many assignments given to one person on a team will result in burnout. Being able to keep track of any costs as measured against the budget helps avoids going over budget, or being able to explain a variance to budget request if needed. Proactive problem solving is a skill that will help middle managers prevent issues from taking too much time to resolve. It works in project management and can be invaluable for any middle manager.
Communication is more than listening; it also requires the ability to inform upper management of progress and to convey necessary information to those other teams who are part of the process. A middle manager must be on the lookout for any tools that will improve efficiency, including software and mobile applications.
Project management is always results oriented with an identifiable end in sight. Middle managers can improve their team’s overall efficiency by adopting skills that produce end products. Middle managers should focus on the internal market that they are serving, and create the means to best satisfy internal needs. Project management skills will definitely be valuable in providing desired results.