What is Project Management?

Project management has evolved over the years and you see project managers in every company, all over the place. Yet, project management is one of the least understood term and most Project Managers have no clue what exactly they are supposed to do in this job. No wonder projects hardly deliver on time, and are always over budget, delivering much less functionality than agreed upon. And do not talk about Quality… Ouch!

Why does this happen? Let us first understand how people get to be Project Managers.

How People Get Elevated To a Project Manager Role?

Most people are very happy when they get promoted as “Project Managers”, and maybe even get a window or corner office. But they tend to become poor project managers as they have no clue about what they are supposed to do.Difference between Theory and Practice

The problem lies far deep. Our school and colleges train us to be knowledgeable in a technical discipline – for example – Electrical Engineering, Medicine, Networking protocols, Telecommunication Technology, Creative Arts, Medieval History,  Pythagoras Theorem, Newton’s Laws of Gravity, and other principles.

We memorize the concepts, make mind maps, and answer the questions correctly in the exams, scoring good  marks. Once we graduate, we join a good company, and start at almost the lowest level… doing the dirty work for the first few years, hoping someone would notice… It takes a few years to learn the ropes, and eventually we become better at what we do.

Finally, someone takes notice, and see that we have learned the ropes, do the job well, and then we get promoted.  After a couple of promotions, we have shown that you can execute on the ground level, know the techniques, and tricks to get things done.

That’s when the promotion to be a Project Manager happens.

Of course, you are elated… Even if you don’t get the best window, or the best corner office, at least you are a manager. No longer just a keg in the wheel…

Challenges of a Project Manager

After you have enjoyed the warm feel of the corner office, the first thing you realize is that the skills that brought you here are not going to take you forward.  Technical details and mastery over “engine design” does not help here. Microsoft PowerPoint and Outlook become your favorite application. You spend half the time developing presentations, and the other half dealing with the onslaught of never ending email. After all, you are on multiple email list – employees copying you on each and every email, bosses sending you new projects and opportunities, and the PMO wanting your contribution on never ending projects and meetings.

You are responsible to get the project done cheaper, faster, better, yesterday! And you never even get the time to focus on the project or the team members. Time disappears between meetings, project reports, status updates, presentations  and email. And you begin to take more and more work home…

You also begin to wonder…

  • How to get the project done when there is no time?
  • Is there a best practice to Project Management?
  • What are you really supposed to do?
  • How do you get to meet the customer’s requirements, meet with the team and motivate them, present things to your management, and still retain some sanity to deal with you family and life in general?

Welcome to the Real World of Project Management!

The Art and Science of Project Management

Project success is the delivery of the required scope, on time, within budget, and with the agreed quality, accepted by the customer. No more, and No Less. Period.

To achieve this, you will have to learn and practice the art and science of managing projects.

You see, Project Management is part art and part science. You can pick up the science, the methodology, the process in books like the PMBOK Guide, published by PMI. It will break down project management into 10 Knowledge Areas and 5 Process Groups.

The PMBOK Guide then goes more granular, and breaks them into 47 distinct processes. They must be done in a particular, logical sequence for you to achieve a much higher chance of success at the project.

You don’t become a swimmer just by reading a book on swimming.

Project Management requires you to collect the real requirements, engage the customer, vendors, team members, management and other stakeholders together, and agree on a project plan.

With a shared vision, a common goal, and practical and achievable plan, and a team willing to put in the hard work, it then becomes a reality.

During this time, you will have to juggle and balance multiple balls in the air – managing quality, adapting quickly to changes, handling new and existing risks, and communicating with everyone on the issues, challenges, current progress and the future plans.

Project Management is Not Easy

Well, nothing is! Everything is difficult in the beginning, but then it gets better with time, practice, patience and hard work.

Project Management requires you to shed your inhibitions, fire the introvert,  wear the Superman costume and start running around, putting off fires, saving distressed team members drowning in a sea of change requests, increasing work loads, and ever reducing budgets and timelines, while being omnipresent.

It is challenging, yet worthwhile initiative. Effective project management brings sanity in a chaotic environment, and puts a structure around a complex task. This saves time, increases efficiency, and improves productivity, with clearer roles, goals and responsibility for everyone.

What Are The Skills Required To Be An Effective Project Manager?

Project management requires more soft skills than the hard, technical skills. Leadership, Communication, Conflict resolution, Problem Solving, Delegation, Presentation skills are more important than the technical, engine expertise. After all, you can always hire the right “expert” by paying the right price. But it is difficult to find the right “leader” off the shelf.

It takes time, experience, mistakes and lessons learned from such mistakes on past projects that make a great project manager. People aren’t born into a Project Manager role. They evolve into a Project Manager role, slowly, as the rose bud becomes a flower.

Further Reading: How to Jump Start Your Career in Project Management?

Are You Cut Out To Be a Project Manager?

If you are already a project manager, Congratulations! You can learn and improve.

If you are not a project manager yet, you can work towards building the skills required for the role.

Whatever your situation, as long as you are willing to learn, adapt, and grow, you can be a great project manager. All it takes is a small step. Take responsibility of your own tasks, deliver them on time, and with a fantastic quality.

Quality gets noticed.

You will soon have more responsibilities, and will begin to acquire a fan base. Grow it, nuture it, and apply the art and science of project management.

Next Steps To Be a Project Manager

There are several things you could do to be a project manager and accelerate your career.

  1. Join the Be a Better Project Manager challenge group on Facebook. And begin to learn the art of project management. Practice it. Learn from it. Share your knowledge and experience. Make this world a better place with your contribution!
  2. Study Project management. Get PMP Certified. Join our Online PMP Coaching Program. Certification helps to show your credibility and competence on the topic of project management. It shows a certain maturity towards managing people and projects.
  3. Improve Your Soft Skills. Learn to communicate better, negotiate better, delegate better, and build a flexible, adaptable attitude. Be ready for change, and embrace it.
  4. Improve Your Technical Skills. While not really essential to be a technical expert, it does not harm to read more in your niche, build more expertise, and be more knowledgeable about whats happening in your industry.

Conclusion

It takes a lot of work to be “somebody”. Get ready to do some serious work to improve your skills, build resilience, and grow your project manager muscle. Once you understand what it takes to be a better project manager (Theory, Science), and start to exhibit the soft skills required (Art), you will begin to move into the fast lane, accelerate your career faster, and go further in the exciting world of project management.

The world needs more, better quality project managers today. There’s Nuclear energy projects to execute, Send a man to Mars, Find the cure to Cancer, Build the Tallest building, Deliver stuff via drones, Commute in driver-less cars, End world hunger, do all of your pet projects, and more…

Get Started. Today!

Cheers
Vinai Prakash

P.S. Write a comment below to tell me what you think. What are the challenges you are facing. Share your plans to get your career moving into Project Management. And I’ll be glad to help. Thanks – Vinai

P.P.S. If you liked this article, please share it on Facebook, and your favorite social media platforms. I’d really appreciate it.

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