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Soft Project Management

Project Managers are in great demand.  According to the World Bank, projects account for 20% of the Worlds GDP, and according to the Economist Intelligence Unit the most critical capability to company’s success in the next 5 years are key staff that can lead and implement strategic change initiatives, a.k.a Project Managers.

This voracious appetite for Project Managers is fed by a vast industry of books, webinars, training, certification organizations and even advanced degree programs.  All across the world well trained and certified men and women equipped with technical Project Management skills and industry specialization pour over their GANTT charts and task lists each day and direct project teams to follow schedules to accomplish scope and mitigate risks.


Despite all this specialized training, business acumen and experience, studies show that 35%-80% of projects continue to fail to deliver the expected scope or business value on-time, and on budget.

What is going on?

Having spent 20 years in and around Project Management discipline, I am painfully aware of the conspicuous imbalance between hard and soft skills resources for Project Management development. 

The vast majority of the tough challenges facing Project Managers each day, draw on their soft skills.  The difficult problems involve people and culture and managing change.  The business and technical project challenges are not the hard part of the job.

My staff and I have been looking forward to this week for some time.  The Rochester PMI® Chapter brought Roeder Consulting to town to deliver their absolutely outstanding “Sixth Sense Buy-In” program, which is the basis for the content of this post.

Roeder confirmed that project success hinges on the a balanced application of critical 3 elements:

  • Technical Skills
  • Business Acumen, and
  • “Sixth Sense skills” (the people stuff)

Drawing on extensive academic research and professional experiences, Roeder explains that 40 years of Project Management doctrine has largely ignored the soft skills, while today we have overwhelming evidence this is exactly where the difference between project success and failure hangs in the balance.

Roeder elaborates in a well organized, engaging and entertaining full day session on:

The “Sixth Sense Disciplines”:

  • Awareness
  • Whole Body Decisions™
  • Clear Communication
  • Adaptability
  • Diplomacy
  • Persistence 

Drawing on science, physiology, psychology, and various academic studies without getting dry, and even teaching techniques used by law enforcement,  Roeder delivers great insight and practical tools and techniques Project Managers can apply to get at the root of soft issues inhibiting project success.

It takes being aware of little things, thinking about thinking and understanding our decision process.  We need to understand what and how we and others are really communicating and we need to understand the process of generating buy-in from others by doing many small things right at an interpersonal level.  This is where Roeder fills in the critical gap that remains after a Project Manager has nailed the hard skills and the business acumen.

This seminar leaves me craving for more.  I believe Project Managers are better served by equipping themselves with soft skill training such as this, than continuing on a quest to refine their technical project management skills or even business expertise. 

While it is hard to find, this kind of training is the stuff that will help Project Managers navigate the really difficult project challenges.


What soft skills areas do you want to develop?

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