Besides looking good on your resume, project management skills have practical implications in your career. While you can exaggerate your skill set, it’s hard to fake your way through a successful project.
With skills such as leadership, communication, subject matter expertise, and negotiation populating most job advertisements, sharpening your project management skills is a top priority for the forward-thinking professional.
Why Project Management Skills Are So Important
Project management skills aren’t just for career project managers. Anyone who holds a managerial position can benefit from developing and sharpening project management skills.
Even the most hands-on project manager has to deal with unexpected challenges and conflicts. As the manager, the buck stops with you.
Project management skills allow you to navigate challenges and ensure that the team’s time and resources are used in the best way possible.
If nothing else, project management skills increase the chances you can steer the project to satisfactory completion and within the set timeline and budget.
With project managers often having to work with limited resources, prioritizing tasks and workflow can be a real challenge. Team members may also have competing priorities and loyalties.
To keep the project from derailing, managers play a crucial role in identifying priorities and getting team members and stakeholders on board. Developing specific skills like scope management is invaluable in keeping the project on track despite external changes and pressures.
According to the PMI Pulse of the Profession, 37% of projects fail due to a lack of clear goals.
With limited resources, good communication and negotiation skills help project managers negotiate for additional resources where needed. Stakeholders are far more likely to assign extra resources if they trust that they will positively impact the project.
Additionally, most successful projects can be attributed to an open channel of communication between the project manager and stakeholders. Reputation also goes a long way in onboarding external resources and talent.
Finally, project management skills are invaluable in tracking progress and meeting specific goals.
In an ideal world, each completed project should inform the next one. Evaluating successes and failures ensures that you do not repeat the same mistakes. Also, carefully monitoring the project’s progress helps spot potential derailment early enough to stay on the flight path.
How to Improve Your Project Management Skills Today
Spreadsheets have long been a core tool for analyzing data and creating “what-if” scenarios in project management. While effective, spreadsheets have their limitations. Spreadsheets can give you an accurate result at the present moment but cannot replicate the dynamic, interdependent, and random reality of complex programs and business scenarios.
A project management simulator is an answer to sharpening your project management skills. With this tool, it is possible to create complex what-if scenarios and analyze data in ways that you could never expect with a spreadsheet.
One such tool is the Cesim PROJECT simulator. This simulator can help to impart crucial project management skills, knowledge, and attitudes.
Additionally, the simulator covers all the real-world aspects of typical project management scenarios, including schedule, costs, scope, quality, and human factors.
Here are some of the core elements of a project management simulator, such as Cesim PROJECT, and how they can help you to sharpen your project management skills.
Most project management simulators, including Cesim PROJECT, are entirely web-based. This capability gives you access to the simulator’s learning tools from any device or any location with an internet connection.
You can think of a project management simulator as a combination of a video game and a virtual training course.
Crucially, the project planning phase sets the tone for the entire project. A Gantt chart is an excellent tool for this purpose, and most project simulators include this functionality. Here, you should see all the tasks comprising the project, set a starting time for the tasks, and estimate how much time each task will take.
Cesim PROJECT includes the planned time for each task and the actual time it takes to complete the task as the project unfolds. In the real world, individual tasks are rarely completed on time. An intuitive simulator can take this factor into account, preparing you for your role as a project manager.
The execution phase of every project involves developing a team to work on the project. A project management simulator can help sharpen your skills in this domain, allowing you to create a successful team.
You don’t need to recruit other people to take part in the simulation. Naturally, the program assigns you the role of the project manager, complete with a specific skill set.
Additionally, the program auto-generates team members. Each team member has pre-assigned skills at the beginning of the game. Cesim PROJECT, for example, pre-generates two to four team members.
Simulators also have specific skill domains. Some simulators are more detailed in this regard than others. In the case of Cesim, there are ten skill domains. No single team member, including the project manager, has all the skills.
A high-quality simulator should also include in-depth information about each team member, such as their availability, labor cost for each team member, and more. Cesim PROJECT goes a step further, allowing you to outsource projects and even transfer team members to other projects.
Any project simulator worth its salt will have specific tasks that your team needs to complete towards the project. As the project manager, your job is to assign team members to tasks matching their skill set.
In the Cesim PROJECT simulation, each task comprising a project has a maximum of six required skills. Your job is to match your team efficiently. Remember that each decision you make is outcome-dependent.
This particular simulator also shows how much time is allocated to each member. The idea is to avoid slack since this time will count towards the cost of the project. A good simulator will also set limits to the number of tasks to assign each team member, just like in a real-world scenario.
A detailed simulator will also include statistics to help you make the right decisions. Cesim, for example, shows how much time it takes each member to complete the task. With this information, you can choose the person who you think will complete the task most efficiently.
Task allocation isn’t always apparent for project managers. Since a simulator mimics real-world project scenarios, it is much easier to identify team members for future tasks and projects.
During the project planning stage, project managers work out a roadmap for everybody to follow. Whether you use S.M.A.R.T goals or C.L.E.A.R. goals, there need to be systems to monitor your progress as the project unfolds.
A good project simulator provides some monitoring capability. With Cesim PROJECT, this feature is known as the Project Map. Here, you can see updates for the project, including the completed tasks, which tasks are yet to be completed, tasks with specific skill priorities, dependencies between projects, and much more.
The more detailed the software, the better. You should be able to see as many real-world task details as possible, down to the number of hours each task requires to complete.
Staying on track with a project is one of the most challenging parts of managing a project. With a simulator, you can learn to watch performance metrics and identify problem areas before they have a significant negative impact on the project’s progress.
The whole idea behind project management simulation is to gauge how your management skills stack up in the workplace. To do this, you need feedback about your performance.
At the end of your simulation, you should have a clear idea of your strongest and weakest points. A good simulator tracks vital performance metrics, including excess hours, relative efficiency, cost performance index, overall quality, and more.
At the end of the simulation, Cesim PROJECT lets you know the net impact of the project. You can see whether your project produced more value than its cost and vice-versa. Additionally, you will evaluate your ability to allocate the right people for the right tasks, among other vital skills.
Project managers often overestimate their management skills and underestimate the importance of augmenting their existing skill-set. These simulators prove invaluable to a project manager who wants to improve their skills but has no clear path or direction about which skills need improving.
5 Best Practices for Using Project Management Simulators
Short of managing a real project and possibly making costly mistakes, project management simulators give you a holistic picture of your management skills. More importantly, these simulators offer the knowledge base and learning tools you need to become a successful project manager.
Some of the best practices for using these tools include the following.
1. Look into Industry-Specific Simulations
While project management fundamentals cut across nearly all industries, applying these principles is rarely repeatable, even in multiple projects within the same industry. For a project management simulation game to be useful, it needs to be relevant to your industry.
Cesim PROJECT is a broad simulation game focusing on project management, communication, effective collaboration, teamwork, and leadership in general. The company also offers additional simulations for specific industries, including:
- Banking & Finance
- Telecom Operator Management
- Electric Utilities Management
- Retail Store Management
We advocate for industry-specific simulations and recommend first taking the broad approach to project management before transitioning to industry-specific simulations.
Even when these simulations aren’t necessarily applicable to your industry, they create the ideal foundation for grasping introductory and advanced project management concepts.
Since project management is a worldwide concept, you may also find a simulator in your language, including French, Russian, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish, in addition to English.
2. Ask For A Live Demonstration
While we recommend Cesim for your simulation solutions, there are many more options in the market. These tools cost money, and it’s hard to tell whether a simulation is worth the time and cost before you commit.
Most software providers are happy to arrange a no-commitment live demonstration of the product. Choose two or three simulations, compare their features, ease of use, learning tools, and value for money before ultimately choosing the right one.
You may be required to provide some personal information before getting access to the live demo. However, most simulations do not need you to enter your payment details or make a deposit.
Additionally, simulation websites typically provide free videos demonstrating how their products work and their features.
3. Read The Course Materials
Project management simulators are intuitive, but you may need extra help grasping the game. These simulators come with course materials and documentation to help you learn it.
Since these games often feature complex and dynamic scenarios, be sure to familiarize yourself with the provided documentation before starting the game.
Some simulators also offer practice sessions to familiarize yourself before starting the actual simulation. Since the simulations mimic a real-life project lifecycle, you may find that the concepts have practical utility in the workplace.
Aside from the actual game rules and descriptions, many of these simulations integrate learning tools into their design. Such software may have discussion boards, group exercises, and debriefing sessions, among other practical learning tools.
It’s not just about winning the game but also about learning crucial skills to apply in real life.
4. Consider Co-Op Simulations
Most project management simulations require only one person to play the game. As the project manager, the program automatically assigns a virtual team of programmed robots rather than real people. Depending on the simulation’s production quality, these robots can mimic real people making real decisions.
However, you may want to use a human team for the simulation. Choose a game that allows you to create additional player accounts for your team members. This way, you can engage your team in a fun training course before working on projects with real-life implications.
Considering that only 65% of organizations focus on developing personnel’s technical skills, training your team might make the difference between success and failure.
5. Real Project Management Scenarios
Unlike traditional video games, project management simulators aren’t designed for entertainment value. Instead, they offer actual knowledge, skills, and experience that you can apply to your job. With this in mind, choose established software providers with substantial portfolios and industry experience.
Cesim, for example, has an impressive list of customers, including Vodafone, London Business College, and Telekom Austria Group, among other notable brands.
One of the defining features of a good simulation is the feelings it provokes when participants are faced with work breakdown structure, project definition, task definitions, and milestones.
Similarly, a high-quality simulation should introduce a certain level of ambiguity and uncertainty that project managers face in the real world.
Some of these programs go to impressive lengths, assigning personalities, salaries, personal work preferences, skills, and virtual team members’ availability. As the simulation’s project manager, you may also have to deal with vendors and contractors, project metrics, morale factors, and unexpected events.
In short, you want the project management simulation to be as life-like as possible.
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