Assessing One’s Own Project Management Skills

The confluence of our busy season at work and a distinct lack of inspiration lately has had me floundering for topics to cover. I haven't been doing very project manager-y things at work lately, so the wellspring from which I usually draw topics has been pretty dry.

The theory of capital-P, capital-M Project Management still fascinates me, though I haven't had the time to give it a lot of thought lately. Perhaps I'm just avoiding actually delving into the Big Bad Boogeyman that is Microsoft Project by lingering on the schools of thought that drive project management, but it seems to me that learning to be effective at managing projects requires comfort with the underlying premises and theories of project management. I don't think I'm rationalizing (and avoiding) too much with the continued contemplation of theory.

It may also be that, as well as my having been too busy at work to spend a great deal of time mucking around with project management software and thinking about the theoretical foundations of project management, part of my lack of inspiration lately is because, for all that I've been doing this blogging gig for a couple of months, I don't feel much like a project manager. It's still kind of like playing house at this point, and I'm having trouble thinking of myself in that role.

 My colleague, Dux, gave me a book to read called Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management, by Scott Berkun. Dux says it's one of the best PM primers out there. I started reading it about seventy-five years ago before actual, real, paying work intruded. The first six pages or so read very smoothly, like it was going to be a fast and informative read, but then stuff happened and I put it down. I've been meaning to pick it back up, and hope to return to it starting this week or next. I think it's going to give me a good bit of practical theory, and I hope that maybe immersing myself in that will get me back on track with this here blogging project.

In the meantime, casting about for something, anything to write about, I plugged "How to be a project manager if you're not a project manager" into Google, hoping something in the results would tickle my creative bone. One of the top results was a Mind Tools quiz on How Good are Your Project Management Skills?

Hopeful that my PM skills were better than my keeping-up-with-a-blog skills, I took the quiz. For the purposes of the quiz, since I don't have an actual project team here at work, I thought about how I manage my family. (It was, surprisingly, mostly applicable for the bulk of the questions.)

I scored a 64 on a scale of 1-100, which is very firmly middle-of-the-road. Basically, my PM skills are OK, and simple projects usually go pretty smoothly when handled the way I handle things. But more complex projects may be beyond me at my current skill level. When applying my skills to an actual, real project involving professional constraints and, you know, adults, I need to beef up my pre-planning process and ensure I prepare better for unexpected wrenches in the works.

The nice thing about this quiz, besides allowing for a quick self-assessment (though I can't speak to how accurate it is, from the standpoint of an actual PM), is that as you're reading the questions, you can kind of interpret how you should be answering them, regardless of what your actual practice is. I kind of had an idea of where I needed to hone my skills as I was going through the quiz.

So how about it – how do you measure up? Are you stuck in the middle and very average like I am? Do you need a PM intervention? Or do you have all your PM ducks in a row and you're waiting for your Nobel Prize in project management to be announced?

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