A project management role is very challenging, skill-wise. Not only do you have to have the right organizational skills, but you will also need technical, social, financial, diplomatic, leadership, and risk assessment skills to go along with it. On top of all these demands, why should we add writing to the list? What possible use could a project manager have for writing? Read on to find out!
Anyone who’s sifted through an Outlook Express inbox can tell you that writing good emails is an art form. I’ve lost count of the number of long, convoluted email conversations that could have been reduced to just one message by including all the relevant information in a concise, properly worded paragraph.
There are many other aspects to writing a good email: tone, diplomacy, grammar and punctuation, formatting, etc. But the essential question you need to ask yourself before hitting the send button is: “Do I have all the important information in here?” Please pay special attention to the word “important”. Only insert the essential bits. You’re way too busy to read emails full of fluff, and so is everyone else.
While this aspect of the project is usually handled by the sales team, project managers often wear multiple hats in a role and are sometimes expected to sell/upsell to a client. Writing project proposals then becomes an invaluable skill. If you have it, clients will respond better and you will drastically reduce the time you spend on this task. You’ll no longer have to agonize over a single proposal for hours.
Training documents are best handled by specialists, but technical writers are a luxury that not many project teams can afford. You could always hand it off to a team member to produce, but that team member’s time would probably be better spent actually working on the project. That means that the only person available to write the training document would be you, the project manager.
To write a training document, you need to clearly enumerate the various steps in a process. Clarity is the biggest issue here. If a particular step seems too complex, break it down into two. Make sure the document differentiates concepts from actual process. In short, learn to develop the skill of explaining a complex topic to a five year old in as few words as possible. You will be surprised at how often this skill will prove to be invaluable, even beyond training document creation.
Team members won’t always report to you. Sometimes they may have an entirely separate manager (like a creative director). Even so, you’ll still be called upon to write employee evaluations due to how closely you work with them.
Writing an employee evaluation is an important yet not immediately obvious skill to learn, because through it you’ll be directly affecting someone’s career. You’ll evaluate good employees and you’ll evaluate bad ones, but both cases should receive thorough and fair assessments. You do this by providing general comments on an employee’s performance or attitude, and then supporting it with specific instances. Make sure everything you write can be backed up by either written documentation or accounts from other people. One of the worst things you can do as a project manager is to grossly misjudge someone’s performance, either over or under valuing their work, and to be proven wrong later by facts.