How to Overcome a Skills Gap

ProjectManager.com

What do you do when you’re leading a project, but over your head in terms of what’s required of you? Don’t panic! Jennifer Bridges, PMP, has the answers to overcoming your own skills gap in this short video.

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!

how to manage a project beyond your skill set

In Review – PM Challenges: Skills Gap

It’s not unusually to find yourself in a project where you’re over your head, said Jennifer. There are many PM skills you’ve been well-trained in, but then there are times when you are asked to go outside the box. The important thing is not to accept the situation as a defeat that will herald the failure of your project.

What you want to do is what project managers always do, work out a process in which you can address your skills gap and resolve it before it becomes a problem. Project managers are not passive, but constantly vigilant in acting to right a wrong.

What Is the Situation?

The first thing you should do is identify the problem. What is it that is causing you to feel overwhelmed and reaching past your skill set?

There can be any number of causes. Maybe you’re dealing with a new technology and you’re unsure how to use it. Or perhaps there’s been a shift in resources and all of a sudden you’re in charge of something you’ve had little to no experience with. It can be a new opportunity that you’re asked to step up for.

Whatever the cause, you can’t address it until you know what it is. This is how you start to learn, by wrapping your head around what needs to be learned.

What Steps Are Needed?

The next thing you need to do is act. Action is just working on a set of processes. Therefore, you want to follow these steps.

  1. Acknowledgement: This means, you have accepted that you’re in over your head and you need help.
  2. Context: You’ve already done this by determining the situation that is beyond your ability to manage.
  3. What You Know: Before you can address what you don’t know about the situation you’re in you first have to catalogue what you do know. There’s likely an overlap in skills that you currently have and those that are required, so list everything that you do know that can help with this new set of responsibilities.
  4. What You Don’t Know: Now what are the skills or knowledge gaps that you don’t know? List all of those, too. This is where you’re going to have to work at gathering knowledge.
  5. What Skills Are Needed: To learn what you don’t know is going to require learning new skills. Figure out precisely what those skills are and develop a plan to get them. You don’t need to be the world’s expert in this new area, so develop an actionable plan to become proficient. Perhaps it’s an online course or a particular certification. Maybe it’s as simple as interviewing key subject matter experts to identify knowledge you need to learn. It might be as simple as buying a book.
  6. Who’s Your Go-To Person: You need help so is that going to come in the form of an advisor? Or are you going to add new team members in your project group to round out the skillsets? Seek those key people out once you’ve identified them.
  7. Who’s Going to Be Your Mentor: Look outside your project as well for a more experienced person to mentor you through this situation. They don’t have to be a subject matter expert, but rather someone who can advise you through this transition. If and when you find yourself in a situation where it feels like you’re drowning in ignorance, it helps to know that there is a lifeline.

Pro-Tip: It can be challenging finding a mentor when you’re also trying to train up in some new areas. Get ahead of the game and be proactive about finding people who can be there for you when you really need them.

Thanks for watching!

Transcription:

Welcome to our PM Challenges Series. Well, today we’re talking about surviving a project when you’re in over your head. And we’ve all been there if not once, but multiple times.

And here’s the situation. Here’s where we commonly find ourselves in those situations. Sometimes it could be new technologies, or emerging technologie. Maybe we haven’t had experience doing those type of projects. Maybe a shift in resources…maybe someone got promoted, or moved out.

So tag, you’re it. So now you’re in charge of a project that you don’t know anything about. The other one is a new opportunity. Maybe within your organization or somewhere where the people say, “We know you, and we trust you, and we wanna lend this opportunity to you.”

So these are the common ones. So we wanna look at, “Okay now, what do we do?” So I think there are certain steps we need to take to evaluate the situation, be true to ourselves, and kinda get ourselves grounded.

So the first step is to acknowledge to yourself the truth, and that you need help. Fake it till you make it is not gonna work here. It’s only gonna be worse. So to be truthful to yourself is gonna be in your favor. Determine the situation. Again, which one of these things do you find yourself in?

Then also declare what you know. You may say you may not know everything, but you do know some things, so declare and define, frame what those are, then specify what you don’t know. And then, for the things that you don’t know, define what skills you need and map a plan to get there.

Then identify your go-to person. Like, who is the go-to person on the project or within the organization that knows how things navigate, know about the project, know about the people, their skills, and someone that you can rely on.

And then, if you can, find yourself a mentor. Find someone who has been there, who’s done that for these type of projects that can help you.

So I think there are also some steps you need to do to prepare. So first of all, find out for this project what needs to be done and when. Just get the lay of the land.

And then find out where are we now and how do we need to get there. And that last one is, “Who do we need to get there?” So I think these are some of the survival techniques that I found helpful for me, and I hope they’re helpful for you.

And if you need a tool that can help you survive your project when you’re in over your head, then sign up for our software now at projectmanager.com.

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