Monday, August 1, 2016
They are organized, passionate and goal-oriented who understand what projects have in common, and their strategic role in how organizations succeed, learn and change. Project managers are change agents: they make project goals their own and use their skills and expertise to inspire a sense of shared purpose within the project team. They enjoy the organized adrenaline of new challenges and the responsibility of driving business results. They work well under pressure and are comfortable with change and complexity in dynamic environments. They can shift readily between the "big picture" and the small-but-crucial details, knowing when to concentrate on each. Project managers cultivate the people skills needed to develop trust and communication among all of a project's stakeholders: its sponsors, those who will make use of the project's results, those who command the resources needed, and the project team members. They have a broad and flexible toolkit of techniques, resolving complex, interdependent activities into tasks and sub-tasks that are documented, monitored and controlled. They adapt their approach to the context and constraints of each project, knowing that no "one size" can fit all the variety of projects. And they are always improving their own and their teams' skills through lessons-learned reviews at project completion. Project managers are found in every kind of organization -- as employees, managers, contractors and independent consultants. With experience, they may become program managers (responsible for multiple related projects) or portfolio managers (responsible for selection, prioritization and alignment of projects and programs with an organization's strategy). And they are in increasing demand worldwide. For decades, as the pace of economic and technological change has quickened, organizations have been directing more and more of their energy into projects rather than routine operations. Today, senior executives and HR managers recognize project management as a strategic competence that is indispensable to business success. They know that skilled and credentialed practitioners are among their most valuable resources.
This is the first in a monthly series of posts looking at the fundamentals of project management for anyone new to the profession or those considering entering it. I will aim to cover all the basic elements of project management and hope it will also be useful for more experienced project managers who may want to remind themselves why they entered the profession in the first place. I hope some of you readers out there will get involved with the discussions and help influence the topics for future posts. Project management – an introduction So what is project management? How does it differ from simply "management" and how does project management in the workplace differ from a personal project such as refurbishing a house? And, of course, could it be the type of career that will suit you? Project management is essentially aimed at producing an end-product that will effect some change for the benefit of the organisation that instigated the project. It is the initiation, planning and control of a range of tasks required to deliver this end product, which could be a physical product, it could be new software or something less tangible like a new way of working. A key factor that distinguishes project management from just management is that it has this final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process. Because of this a project manager needs a wide range of skills; often technical skills, certainly people management skills and good business awareness. For all but the simplest projects a formal approach to managing a project works best. The control imposed by a formal approach is essential when there are complexities such as new technology, inter-dependent tasks, teams spread across several departments or companies, or where teams are located in different parts of the world; all common occurrences in many business projects. Because every project will involve some type of change, change management is an integral part of the PM process. And because there is change there are likely to be risks so risk management is also thrown into the project management mix. So what have I said already about projects that require formal management? Produce something new or altered: tangible or intangible Have a finite timespan: a definite start and end Likely to be complex in terms of work or groups involved Require the management of change Require the management of risks Projects crop up in almost all industries and businesses, for instance: Transport and infrastructure IT Product manufacture Building and construction Regulatory changes in finance and law There are standard project management processes used to plan and control tasks, budgets and schedules, to communicate between the different people involved and deal with risks. These processes are usually ongoing throughout the project. There are also various phases of a project that will have a defined start and end within the overall project lifespan. For instance, the requirements gathering phase often occurs in the early part of the project. So a project has a range of processes that occur throughout it life (monitoring, controlling, communicating etc.) and a range of phases (initiation, requirements, planning etc.) that occur roughly chronologically. Next month I will look in detail at these fundamental project processes and phases but, in the meantime, why not let us know what attracted you to project management as a career?