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5 Essential Project Management Skills for Scientists

July 20th, 2018 -- Hannah Michelle...
As business, science and technology intertwine, project management and communication skills are in high demand.
Story by John Bricklemyer

Many science professionals find themselves struggling to manage their assigned projects — a task for which they often have no formal training. With the intertwining of business, science and technology comes the increasing demand for professionals who combine industry experience with strong management and communication skills.

Project management does not have to be overly complicated, but it does require some diligence and the use of a good project management methodology for continued success.

Here are five essential project management skills.

1.   Communication. Does your project team know what the end objectives of the project are? Does the project team (and you) truly understand what problem(s) this project is really trying to solve? Do they fully understand the constraints that the project must be accomplished within? Communication issues are often cited as the number-one behavioral issue impeding project success.

2.    Define Project Success. Amazingly, many project teams don’t really understand how success for the project they are working on will be measured—and by whom. It is very important to make sure that the entire project team understands the answer to this question. If not, your various team members will be working to satisfy different definitions, often resulting in wasted efforts, unhappy customers, and a frustrated team.

3.    Teamwork. Many project team members are thrown together to work on projects without taking the time to develop as an effective group. Does everyone on the team understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as those of their teammates? Building trust is also critical for the team to be able to work effectively towards achieving the project objectives.

4.    Change Control. How many projects have you worked on where there seems to be a never-ending flow of change orders? Does your team have a process in place to carefully review and approve each change request, if appropriate? Which requests are within the scope of your project and which are not? A lack of change control can quickly lead to missed deadlines, excessive costs, and misunderstandings.

5.    Risk Management. Has your team identified what risks might exist for your project? Have they outlined what steps need to be taken if those risks do occur? Does your team discuss project risks on a regular basis? Don’t be caught flat-footed when an event happens that you should have foreseen.

Learn more essential skills with the Science & Technology Management Graduate Certificate.

About the Author
John Bricklemyer, assistant director for project management programs/professor of the practice, has more than 31 years of progressive experience in a variety of operational settings in various engineering and management positions. Bricklemyer has taught at KU in engineering management since 2009 and in project management since the program was started in 2013. He holds a master's degree in international management, and master's and bachelor’s degrees in industrial engineering.

The Science & Technology Management Graduate Certificate degree program is supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle