David Moody, Staff Writer & Business Consultant at Jacksson David, LLC
The 3 Essential Soft Skills for Young Entrepreneurs – Part 3 of 3
This post is the last in a series on this topic. I’ve stated that I believe entrepreneurial success involves our natural gifts, technical skills and soft skills. TECHNICAL SKILLS BUILD PRODUCTS . . . SOFT SKILLS BUILD COMPANIES.
This series of my top three soft skills for young entrepreneurs started with COMMUNICATION and TEAM ORIENTATION (see previous posts). Transmitting our message, listening and clarifying are all required for successful communication. The ability to work in, and lead, a team is required for success in a startup and in life.
My choice for the last of the top three soft skills is project management.
THE SKILLS – I’m certainly biased on this one since my experience with NASA was in project management. However, it is my belief that project management is where creativity, planning, communication, and working in a team all come together. The skills required to develop and execute a project are critical in entrepreneurship. As a project manager you learn to:
- Identify the objective(s) of the project
- Develop a plan to build the end product or service to meet the objective(s)
- Identify the resources, including people, necessary to build it
- Establish a time line to accomplish the task with key metrics and milestones to track your progress
- Identify the sequence of events that must occur in a particular order and the tasks that are on your critical path. Critical path tasks must occur in the proper sequence for the project to stay on schedule.
- Develop work-arounds when things don’t go according to plan, learn, and adjust
This sounds complex but we already use bits and pieces of project management every day to plan our day, accomplish small tasks, create an art or science project, write a research paper, go to the grocery store and prepare a meal, or build a bird house for the back yard. The difference is that real world project management requires documenting and committing to a plan, formally tracking your progress and making adjustments to the plan as necessary. Deadlines, people, and unforeseen obstacles all add complexity to the project and it’s the skills to handle these complexities that make the difference between a successful project and one that fails.
HOW TO ACQUIRE THESE SKILLS – Do some research on the process of project management and then do a couple dozen projects. You’ll get the hang of it. Start small with projects that involve just you, and resources and skills you already have. Look for opportunities to be involved in more complex projects, first as a participant and then as a leader. Gradually take on projects that require more resources, take longer and involve more people. Whether these projects succeed or fail, you’ll gain valuable insights about your strengths and weaknesses, managing people, dealing with adversity, and leading.