Spotlight on PM competence: The key to project success

Mar 1, 2024

In the evolving landscape of project management, the spotlight often shines brightest on technical prowess and methodological expertise. Yet, as we navigate through the complexities of modern projects, it becomes increasingly clear that the true bedrock of project success lies not just in the ‘what’ and ‘how’ but significantly in the ‘who.’ At Luminate, our experience has taught us that the core competencies of a project manager transcend the conventional boundaries of technical knowledge. We believe a PM must demonstrate emotional intelligence (EQ) in every decision they make, be readily adaptable (AQ), and have an innate ability to foster team chemistry.

Let’s understand the magic

Recent research, based on a survey of 150 members of the Australian Institute of Project Management, has pinpointed 15 critical success factors for projects, with project understanding and competent project team ranking as the most pivotal. This, collaborated with our own findings at Luminate, places a pronounced emphasis on what we like to call the ‘5% of magic‘ – those intangible and often innate qualities that set apart the exceptional PM from the merely competent​​​​. This ‘magic’ isn’t something that can be easily quantified or taught through traditional project management courses; rather, it’s woven into the fabric of one’s professional demeanour, reflecting a deep-seated understanding of human dynamics, and an unwavering commitment to the collective vision.

At the heart of this discussion lies the undeniable truth that project success is inextricably linked to the competence of the PM. At its core it is about the ability to read the room, to inspire and motivate, to anticipate and pivot, and to do so with a grace and resilience that will instil confidence in the project team and with the project sponsor.  All the while driving progress to achieve the project’s goals.

Our observations and experiences suggest that projects led by PMs who exhibit a high EQ and AQ not only achieve their intended outcomes more consistently, but also foster a project environment that is dynamic, innovative, and resilient in the face of adversity.

People make projects successful, not methodologies

Moreover, the role of a PM extends beyond mere leadership and into the realm of trusted advisors. In all projects today, where change is the only constant, the ability of a PM to act as a steadfast beacon of adaptability and emotional intelligence becomes not just advantageous, but essential. It’s important to remember that the keystone of project success lies not in the rigid frameworks of methodology, but in the people.

The future of project management lies in our ability to recognise and value the human competencies that truly drive success. Our PMs are individuals who embody these competencies. They bring to the table not just a wealth of technical knowledge but a profound ability to connect, adapt, and lead with empathy and insight.

Many of you will have heard me say many a time – if you can’t change the people… change the people. Never is this mantra more true than for project rescue engagements.  We’re often called in to provide an independent evaluation (we call it a Fitness Test) of derailed projects.  Typically, we find that the incumbent PM is either not well aligned to the level of project complexity being faced, or equally as impacting, does not have the requisite level of EQ to form trusted relationships with stakeholders.  Quite simply, the PM who got your project into a mess, is not going to be best placed to get you out of it!

At Luminate, we’re committed to embracing this broader vision of project management competence, fostering an environment where technical acuity meets human insight. We can hit the ground running, addressing challenges that are transformed into opportunities, and where every project becomes a testament to the transformative power of exceptional leadership.

If you’d like to know more about how we deliver complicated projects in an uncomplicated way, call Jarrod on 021 528167 or email him on [email protected].