A Beginner’s Guide to Agile Construction

Take a look at your current operating procedures.  How long does it take your company to restructure and switch between design styles or projects? The construction industry as a whole isn’t generally the most agile, often remaining quite hidebound and set in their ways, content to let the rest of the world move on without them.  Agile construction and project management are beginning to emerge as a way to keep things moving forward as the world continues to advance.  What is agile construction, and why should you consider adopting it in your business?

Starting with Agile Development

Agile manufacturing and building methods emerged in the automotive and software development industries to cope with the continually changing and often turbulent environment. The creators chose the term agile as the best way to describe the need for adaptiveness within their sectors.  At its core, agile development is a series of principles and values designed to create self-organizing teams and foster collaboration.  The ultimate goal is to build a system that can adapt to anything that the ever-changing industry can throw at it.

This doesn’t eliminate the need for managers or supervisors to run the overall program, but instead of micromanaging every step of the process, in an agile development system, managers just provide the framework and step back, allowing and trusting their teams to figure out the best way to solve the problem and deliver the finished product.

Software is a very non-linear development process. You can build different pieces of a program out of order and have them easily slot together in the end into a functional program. Construction doesn’t work that way, which has led many to believe that it might be ill-suited for agile management techniques, but this is one of those rare cases where opposites attract.

Making Construction Agile

Typically, the construction industry is the antithesis of agile, but even industries steeped in tradition can benefit from the addition of a bit of agility.  These might seem like two opposed concepts, with agile development focusing on constantly checking and changing processes depending on what is needed at the moment and construction tending to stick to the same tried and true practices, but with a bit of tweaking, the two can work together.

Some rules in construction will never be agile, such as the order of construction.  You can’t start building the roof before you pour the foundation, for example. You also will not be able to put off major decisions until late in the construction process, which is a tenant of agile development that works with software development but is harder to apply in the real world where things like gravity exist. You can change how you approach each of these steps as you move through the construction process.

instead of sticking to the same inventory management plan you’ve always used, consider applying agility principles. Continually check and re-check your inventory management procedures to ensure they’re optimized. This will likely include but isn’t limited to keeping detailed records of your inventory and investing in new technology, such as project management software, to help fill in the gaps and keep things moving forward.

Agility in Project Management

Project management software is another tool beginning to emerge to streamline the construction industry as a whole, and construction management in particular,  and make it more agile. While delays and cost overruns aren’t always avoidable, planning and project management software can make it easier to prevent more of these problems and keep projects moving forward.

While the construction process is sequential out of necessity, since we currently can’t violate laws like physics and gravity to build houses and larger structures out of order, the planning and design process can significantly benefit from agility in management. Design problems are quick and inexpensive to fix, but once you start pouring concrete or building wood frames, fixing these same problems becomes infinitely more expensive.  Case studies have shown that companies that adopted agile construction and project management techniques and tenets were more successful in multiple examples, completing technical milestones and meeting performance indicators on the schedule.

The Future of Agile Construction

Agile development techniques might be well known in software development and automotive engineering circles, but it’s just beginning to make an appearance in other industries.  Construction, usually thought to be linear and inflexible, can benefit greatly from the tenants of agile development.

You can’t take the construction process and turn it on its head, but you can make the most of the information that you have available and use it to create an efficient and effective team for any project that might cross your desk. Take a closer look at your current operating procedures and see where you might be able to make the necessary changes or what aspects of your operation could benefit from being a little more flexible.

Author Bio

Rose Morrison is a construction industry writer and the managing editor of Renovated. Follow her on Twitter to see more of her work

Essentials of a Construction Training Program

Construction is an industry that’s usually associated with on-the-job training. But a more comprehensive training program is quickly becoming essential throughout the sector. What are some of the essentials of this sort of training program?

1. Apprenticeships

High school students who look beyond the “college is the only choice” axion are often on the lookout for an easy way to get their foot in the door. Instead of waiting for them to find you — which may or may not happen, depending on the state of the job market — why not offer apprenticeships as part of your training program?

Keeping everything in-house makes it easier to secure the kind of talent you need without worrying that another company might poach your potentials right out from under you while they’re training.

Construction management software can become an invaluable tool for managing your apprenticeship programs, helping you keep all your ducks in a row, so to speak. With a keystroke or a single click, you can keep track of each apprentice’s progress, hours, certifications earned, and all other applicable information in one place.

This becomes incredibly useful if you’re not used to running in-house apprenticeship programs.

2. Diversity

Off the top of your head, do you know the demographic makeup of your team? If you work with a large number of people or lots of different subcontractors, the answer is probably no.

Experts predict that Caucasian individuals will make up less than half of the U.S. population and workforce by 2030. Discrimination should never have any place in the workplace, and modern companies absolutely can’t afford to exclude people because of their race, gender, or sexuality anymore.

Diversity in the workplace is something every industry should be striving for. In addition to taking all the necessary steps to promote diversity on your crew, frequent diversity training can help keep everyone on the same page.

Incorporate these changes into your construction management programs and let the software do at least some of the work for you. Creating a diversity training program is essential, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

3. Variety

They say that variety is the spice of life, and that goes double for training programs. Sticking to the same training regimen every time you add a new member to your crew is going to leave everyone bored to tears — and if they’re bored, they’re not retaining vital information.

Not all people learn the same way, it turns out. Some learn best visually, while others learn best when they listen. Others only thoroughly grasp concepts during hands-on instruction. Don’t stick to old or outdated training methods just because that’s how you’ve always done it. Spice things up and provide variety in your training.

Keep track of everything you use and everything you do in your training programs. That way, you don’t cycle back to things too often, and it’s easier to keep track of what works and what doesn’t.

4. Safety

Safety on a construction site is always of the utmost importance. It becomes even more challenging when you bring new employees onto the team. You need to instruct them on-site while still ensuring their safety and the safety of everyone else on your crew.

Before they ever pick up a hammer or get behind the controls of a forklift, instill in your trainees the essential importance of safety in the workplace. Don’t skip this step. Don’t delay it until they have other basics down. Start with safety and then work your way into everything else.

Embracing modern technology — especially things like construction management software — can make it easier to keep track of safety issues, keep your team safe, and with enough data, even predict when and where safety problems might occur.

5. Best Practices

Everything in your workplace should come with a series of best practices, and your training program is no exception. Keep a comprehensive list of your best practices, and allow them to evolve and change as you learn more.

Techniques and technologies are constantly changing — so you need to evolve to match or be left behind. You can use construction management software to keep track of your best practices, so you don’t end up returning to something that doesn’t work because you’ve forgotten about it or a new member of the crew suggests it.

6. Personalization

No two applicants or trainees are alike — and your training program will need to adapt accordingly. Personalized training programs are a great way to attract the younger generations.

While Gen Z won’t outnumber the Millennials that came before them, they’re bringing an entirely new perspective to the field — and they are expecting a fast-paced, tech-centric workplace. Personalizing your training programs is a great way to bring this new generation into a rewarding career in construction.

7. Desirability

One of the most challenging things when building a construction training program is combatting the general population’s perception of the industry. When the average person pictures a construction site, they see dirty men in hard hats, miserable in dead-end jobs.

This isn’t close to reality. We have to combat that perception and turn the industry into a place where people can see themselves building a lucrative, interesting, and rewarding career.

8. Continuous Education

Finally, make sure that training doesn’t stop with onboarding. One of the fastest ways to lose Millennial and Gen Z employees is to allow them to stagnate in their position. Everyone can benefit from continued education in the workplace. Think of it as investing in the future of your company. Instead of continually training new employees because your existing ones leave, you can turn your training program into a tool for employee retention.

Looking Forward

The exact contents of your training program will vary depending on the type of work you do and the markets where you operate. But all of the things we’ve listed above can help you build a comprehensive training program.

The goal isn’t just to train your new hires. It’s to turn your company into one that can help your employees build a career in the industry instead of using it as a layover along their way.

A comprehensive training program isn’t optional anymore for any company hoping to survive and thrive in the modern market. Start by looking at your existing training programs and seeing where you can make changes that will help you move into the future.

This blog was guest authored by Rose Morrison. Rose Morrison is a construction industry writer and the managing editor of Renovated. Follow her on Twitter to see more of her work

The reality and challenges of working with offshore teams

By Marina van Wyk
Having recently gone through a round of interviews in search for my next contract, I noticed how often I was asked about my ability to work with offshore teams and stakeholders.
Distributed project teams are becoming more common, as organisations look at cutting the cost of running their business.
These days project resources, stakeholders and subject matter experts no longer need to be in a single location, and can be anywhere. Our teammates can be just down the road working from home or thousands of miles away and in a different time zone.
No matter how close or far they are, there are some common daily challenges working with remote project teams, such as:

  • Communicating an idea without being able to just swing by a colleague’s desk and using a pencil and paper to draw a quick diagram to help their understanding
  • Solving problems over a conference call riddled with background noise, while trying to understand a complex technical options discussion in a foreign accent
  • Scheduling and running meetings with attendees turning up in their local office just as you finish your day due to the time zone differences
  • Receiving a meeting invite for an important meeting on a day when it’s a public holiday where you are.

As much as technology can help us overcome these challenges, the reality is it can only go so far to enable us to truly connect.
Video conferencing is great, but you need good bandwidth and it has to be supported by all the other dependencies – rooms, devices, microphones, headsets or speakers.
Conference calling is a good substitute to emails and lengthy documentation to validate a requirement, but has its own challenges. Does this sound familiar? “I can hear you, can you hear me…?”
Collaboration tools for managing project artefacts and share information, which are stored in the cloud, allow us to easily update and manage project timelines, document requirements and manage defects. But they need to be set up or structured properly and utilised effectively.
However, even with regular contact and the best use of technology, one major challenge remains – how to really to know the person on the other side of the line?
A good way to get to know fellow team members, whether they are remote or at the next desk, is to create a personal map of each person.
I discovered this technique from a presentation by Jurgen Appelo at a recent Agile Auckland event. A personal map is similar to a basic mind map, but you start with the subject’s name in a circle in the centre and with radiating lines and bubbles representing their hobbies, goals, aspirations and personal circumstances. This system can be great for any team set up, as a way to visualise people and connect beyond work problem solving.
For business analysts, who are often at the centre of requirements discussions, the best way to overcome the challenges of working with distributed teams is to do what we do best:

  • Be flexible and open in your communication,
  • Stick to structures that are familiar to the other party,
  • Use visual techniques as much as possible, such as screen mock-ups and  diagrams,
  • Be clear in communicating messages and ideas, and, of course, frequent follow ups.

The one golden rule when working with remote team members is of course to leave no room for ambiguity.
No matter what role you play on a project, there’s no shortage of daily challenges when working with offshore teams. But since it’s become a reality of the modern world, we may as well embrace it and try and do our best to stay connected and bridge the distance, time and cultural divide between us and our remote teammates.
Marina van Wyk is a senior business analyst with 10 years’ experience in software development projects. She offers insights from her involvement in various IT projects at Spark, Vodafone, Auckland Council, Vero Insurance and others. 

Should you hire contractors on your project?

In a casual conversation in the office recently, someone asked: “Why are we hiring contractors? They come, learn all our systems and leave with our IP.”
I couldn’t help agreeing – it does seem counterproductive.
Organisations invest in the professional experience and knowledge of these “outsiders”, but when they need to expand on the systems the contractors helped develop, that knowledge is gone.
From that perspective, it certainly doesn’t seem to make sense for organisations to hire contractors rather than permanent staff if they wish to retain and grow organisational knowledge.
But, on reflection, this argument has another side to it – there are also certain benefits to having contractors on a project.
Just as a contractor gains knowledge and experience in one organisation, they bring that to their next assignment – and your company can be the beneficiary in this exchange.
While retaining internal knowledge is important, having someone on the team with recent exposure and understanding of others companies’ systems and processes provides an opportunity to re-evaluate your own.
You get to tap into the IP of other companies in your sector – and sometimes even get a glimpse of how your competitors work.
This could give you insights into different development methodologies or technical and process subject matter expertise.
Bringing a contractor project manager, business analyst, developer or a tester can also enhance your project base knowledge.
An experienced contractor will bring a different perspective to your project, based on their previous experience. They will question why a process is run a certain way, which is also an opportunity to improve your current state.
Of course, you still need close collaboration with those who have been in the company for a while to fully understand the organisational and technical impacts and dependencies.
What goes without saying is the expectation that is set when you take on a contractor for your project. Often they are available at short notice when you need someone to ‘start yesterday’, and they also tend to hit the ground running once they’re on the job – there’s no days-long settling in period that permanent staff often need to go through before they begin work on your project.
So before you decide if you need a permanent or a contractor resource on your project, don’t dismiss the idea of getting a contractor over concerns about retaining IP in your organisation.
Be sure to weigh up the pros and cons of both options before making that call.

Marina van Wyk is a Senior Business Analyst with 10 years’ experience in software development projects. She offers insights from her involvement in various IT projects at Telecom, Vodafone, Auckland Council, Vero Insurance and others. 

Don’t forget the end users

Let’s admit it, when working on a project, the word ‘stakeholder’ may mean different things to different people, depending on their role.
As a project manager, you will talk about the project sponsor and the business owner as your key stakeholders.
In all fairness, they are key to the project, as they are the ones who keep track on its financial viability, approve budgets and have a say in who runs which projects and when.
And you, as a PM, need to make sure your key decision makers are happy.  After all, if they are not engaged or are unhappy with the progress of the project, there will be no project.
To me as a business analyst, the key stakeholders are the end users.  They are the people who are going to be on the receiving end of the application once it’s delivered.
Too often though, I have seen how engagement with these stakeholders is underestimated on projects.
Of course, project managers will always offer good reasons why end users can’t be engaged as a stakeholder group, such as:

  • The actual user base is too large and external to the organisation, so it’s near to impossible to go out and interview them for requirements,
  • The project has a short timeframe to deliver and we can’t afford going through validating the requirements to meet the deadline,
  •  There is no support by the business owner to engage the users because they may be too busy or are remote to the project team location.

But what happens when the end users are not involved on the project?
The results vary from missed requirements, or requirements which are communicated vaguely by business owners not familiar with the detailed business use cases and processes, or (and this is scary) decisions about usability being made by developers!
It’s not hard to guess then that when the end product is delivered, it may not be one that users are willing or even capable to use.
At worst, the business value for initiating the project in the first place may not be delivered.
For example, if your project promised to deliver operational efficiency and end users are struggling to use the system or are resisting changing their processes, operational costs may actually increase.
This kind of outcome will bring into question the validity of initiating any future projects that promise to deliver operational efficiency.
While I agree you may not always have the luxury of having a dedicated end user on every project, there are certainly ways to overcome this and to maintain the focus on delivering the business value your project promised.
If the audience is external, engage user experience designers to consult and provide requirements.  Even if the input does not come directly from end users, you will receive advice on best practice approaches for usability.
And, if prospective users are internal to your organisation, but the business owner is still resisting engaging them, approach the training team who may be familiar with internal processes, the users and how they work.
If your project is on a tight deadline and you only have a short timeframe to engage with users, ask your developers to create prototypes of those tricky interfaces that need to be nailed down.  You may be surprised how much feedback you can get from a visual and semi-interactive presentation in a short session.
Admittedly, it’s not an easy task to persist with engaging your end users. But ultimately, it’s better to risk annoying business owners to ensure this happens, than to end up with irate users and a tool that causes more headaches than it solves.

Marina van Wyk is a Senior Business Analyst with 10 years’ experience in software development projects. She offers insights from her involvement in various IT projects at Telecom, Vodafone, Auckland Council, Vero Insurance and others. 

Self-organising teams – an idea worth spreading?

Guest blog by Marina van Wyk
Heading to a recent Agile Auckland network event, I was quite sceptical about the subject, but curious enough to drag myself along on a rainy winter night after work.
The self-organising organisation? Yeah, right, I thought.
Even when the presenters ran a small survey around the packed room at the start of the session asking if we could visualise our respective organisations letting staff choose who they work with and what they work on, my hand didn’t go up.
But as the presentation went on, I could sense my “Yeah, right” slowly moving towards “Hmm, maybe…” – and by the end of the talk it was: “Actually, quite possible”.
Sandy Mamoli of Nomad8 and Trade Me Head of Projects David Mole shared their experience of how the concept of self-organising squads was introduced at Trade Me’s IT division.
The self-organising squad principle is based on the philosophy that people need to be happy in their daily jobs to be productive and efficient.  We feel motivated to do better for ourselves and the companies we work for, if we know that we are trusted. We want the best for our organisation and will make decisions accordingly.
The principle is easily applied to the IT industry because to deliver a usable and tested product, you need a mix of cross-functional skills. A squad is effectively a team of people that becomes self-sufficient to deliver a software product.
The important part of the Trade Me story is ‘self-organisation’ of the squads.  Instead of a programme manager forming the squads, staff were given a chance to choose which squad they wanted to be a part of and once organised, how they want to run their projects – agile, lean or waterfall.
Preparation and planning for the self-selection session was very thorough as the risk was huge. Trying to predict all the possible failure scenarios (one of which was the potential of a physical fight with a knife stabbing!), the organisers prepared to overcome any problem.  The session ran with a lot of visual materials and was carefully facilitated. It finished with two fully functional squads.
Fast forward almost a year and Trade Me IT projects are now delivered by about 22 self-organised squads.  The output of the technology department has increased and staff feedback about this ‘social experiment’ has been very positive.
Because the key metrics for Trade Me’s technology department is quick go to market, high quality products, and happy employees and customers, the self-organising squads helped achieve the company’s goals.
Can it be done in any organisation?  Maybe not.  The key dependency here is management support and the urgency for your organisation to change and evolve.
Can it be done in any IT project? I’d say it’s more likely than in an operational department of a business, due to the creative aspect of software development, which is often overlooked.
Of course, the idea of letting staff self-select who they work with and on which projects is scary. Like any change, it takes very brave people to take that leap.
Could self-organising teams be the way to run projects in future?  Would this concept work in your organisation?
Read more on the Trade Me project here.
Image courtesy of Nomad8
Marina van Wyk is a Senior Business Analyst with 10 years’ experience in software development projects. She offer insights from her involvement in various IT projects at Telecom, Vodafone, Auckland Council, Vero Insurance and others. 

How to build an open and collaborative project team culture – a BA’s view

Guest blog by Marina van Wyk
One of the unique challenges of being a project manager is bringing a group of people together, get them to work towards a common goal and make them feel part of a team.
But too often, especially on IT projects, that feeling of belonging to a team is missing.
I get it, it’s a really tough ask. The nature of IT projects is that team members with various skillsets are pulled together from different cultural and organisational backgrounds.
Generally no one knows each other and everyone brings their own baggage from previous projects. Your BA may have just completed a very stressful and exhausting project, feeling burnt down.  The developer has come from a successful initiative, still feeling buzzy with a very high expectation of this new project.  The tester has just finished a project working in a team that lacked leadership and business vision.
So as PM, you pull this group together, call them a team and expect them to produce tangible, valuable business outcomes in a relatively short period of time.
The challenge here is how to make these people not just work together on achieving a goal, but also to connect on a personal level so they don’t feel they’re just a little cog in a large machine.
How do you build an open, collaborative and trusting culture in an IT project team?
Of course we are all human beings and we make connections.  We find things in common and have coffee machine chats about our weekends or hobbies.
Often that’s where the team culture starts and stops – with little initiative from the project manager to encourage and create a strong culture.
As professionals and adults, we should of course all contribute to a healthy and collaborative culture in our team.
While we, as individuals, build individual connections, it’s the role of the project manager to instil a team connection.
The project manager is a focal role who brings the team together and sets the tone for the project.  If the project manager buries her head in project plans and risk registers all day, and keeps busy delivering the project on time and on budget, she risks missing the human factor and the importance of communication and relationship building in the team.
This may be due to the pressures on the PM to not to fail the project, or it could be a lack of people skills, or maybe the view that the team will be together only for a relatively short period of time, so why bother.
But little things like a round of coffee to celebrate a signoff of a test plan, or thanking the developers in front of the whole team for working late to monitor the deployment, or a team lunch to welcome a new solutions architect can go a long way.
These gestures not only make the whole team aware of the effort that individuals put into the project, but also give team members the opportunity to have fun together. They help with understanding each other better, making collaboration and information sharing easier and freer.
What’s more, it helps the PM build a reputation of a leader who connects and attracts people who would want to work with them again in the future.
Marina van Wyk is a Senior Business Analyst with 10 years’ experience in IT project management having worked for Vodafone, Auckland Council, Vero Insurance, Datacom and Simpl. 

No small task is trivial – by Marina van Wyk

Recently, while working on home renovations, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between our relatively small DIY painting job and IT projects in general.
Little things like buying painter’s tape, choosing the colour, sanding down little imperfections in the walls, removing old paint on the trimmings and smoothing out the corners – they all take up a lot of time before you start the ‘real’ job of painting the walls and the ceilings.
Similarly, IT projects have a range of small and trivial activities that need to be done before the development work is up and running full steam.
As a project manager, you often need to take care of getting team members’ access to the network, sorting out templates and document repositories, interviewing project staff, putting together a team and even the seating arrangements.
These little tasks are often overlooked, and when the project kicks off and the pressure to deliver is on, resources are thrown into the typical development lifecycle straight away.  If those preparation tasks have not been completed, the project is bound to have delays or you may need to accept that the deliverables are not going to be 100% complete or meet your organisation’s standards.
You may argue that you can start a painting job without getting all the tools ready.  “The hardware store is only 15 minutes away, right?”
The same goes for an IT project.  You can get your resources to start work before organising access to the right tools or sorting out access to a document library.  But how will that affect your project down the line?
Once the project is underway, switching your focus from your daily responsibilities will be a distraction, at best.  At worst, your team will quickly get used to manual work-arounds or accept the fact that information sharing and communication is not encouraged on your project.   And we all know the implications of not having  free communication flow across team members!
Without a doubt, the small set up tasks prior to the project kick off can be distracting or may get you involved in the organisational politics or technical detail that looks never ending, without offering any tangible outcome.  Some project managers avoid them simply because these activities are tiring and plain boring.
What can you, as a project manager, do about this?
First of all, delegate! If you have the luxury of having a project administrator, you’re probably already doing this. If not, ask your team members for help.  If your business analyst hasn’t started on collecting requirements, they will be more than happy to assist with putting together a list of templates.  Your developer may be available to talk to the helpdesk to organise the appropriate security groups and access.
Next, do what you do best – plan!  Estimate and ‘time-box’ these set up activities in the context of your project.  If your project is only two months long and it’s taking you more than a week to arrange the logistics, you will know that the set up tasks are taking too long and it’s time to start prioritising.
Focus on the outcomes
Above all, remember the value of having set up tasks completed and focus on what is going to bring the most benefit to your project – delivery on time, team communication or high quality documentation.  After all, your professionalism will be assessed based on quality of your project’s deliverables.
Marina van Wyk is a Senior Business Analyst with 10 years’ experience in IT project management having worked for Vodafone, Auckland Council, Vero Insurance, Datacom and Simpl. Marina will provide regular guest blogs for Psoda giving a BA’s view of project management.

28 Skills to working smarter: a list of soft skills you need

After much of my career spent researching and writing about soft skills, I was able to whittle down the expansive list of soft skills into 28 individual soft skills – 10 self-management skills and 18 people skills – that I believe are the most important to your career success. No matter what work you do, you will find value, advancement, and fulfilment in developing these 28 soft skills.

Self-management skills

Address how you perceive yourself and others, manage your emotions, and react to adverse situations.   Only when you build an inner excellence can you have a strong mental and emotional foundation to succeed in your career. They are:

  1. Empowered mindset
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Emotion regulation
  4. Self-confidence
  5. Stress management
  6. Resilience
  7. Skills to forgive and forget
  8. Persistence and perseverance
  9. Patience
  10. Perceptiveness

People skills

Address how to best interact and work with others so you can build meaningful work relationships, influence others’ perception of you and your work, and motivate their actions.   I have split them into two sections – Conventional and Tribal.

Conventional People Skills

This list of people skills you can find in most job descriptions and you will be assessed on some or all of these in your performance reviews depending on your level:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Teamwork skills
  3. Interpersonal relationship skills
  4. Presentation skills
  5. Meeting management skills
  6. Facilitating skills
  7. Selling skills
  8. Management skills
  9. Leadership skills
  10. Mentoring / coaching skills

Tribal people skills

This is the list of people skills that you will not find in any job descriptions.  They are also essential to your career success.  I call it tribal because they are more “insider knowledge” that you gain from work experience or from mentors.  Some people can go through their entire career and not be aware of some of these skills. They are:

  1. Managing upwards
  2. Self-promotion skills
  3. Skills in dealing with difficult personalities
  4. Skills in dealing with difficult/unexpected situations
  5. Savvy in handling office politics
  6. Influence / persuasion skills
  7. Negotiation skills
  8. Networking skills

No doubt that this is a daunting list. To get a better understanding of these soft skills, go to my original post on this — it will go further in-depth as to defining each important trait.
Focus on developing and perfecting one at a time and you’ll find that you’ll be making progress against others. Much like learning one language (like French) will help you to understand other languages (Spanish and Italian).  It’s critical that you understand why each of these soft skills are important to your career success and then ask yourself – what soft skills do I already possess and which ones do you want to develop next?

Lei Han is a Stanford Engineer and Wharton MBA with over 15 years of business experience. She is passionate in helping professionals work smart and achieve success. Lei has written about soft skills development and career success since 2009. You can follow her on Twitter @bemycareercoach.