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Project Management as a Management Tool

Ian Jackson

When most managers talk about project management it’s normally associated with a major event like a building construction project or a new business system design. These projects require a high level of project management expertise such as those acquired through a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) designation.  And there are, of course, times when a depth of knowledge and years of experience can prove critical to the ultimate success of the project.

The Bad News

Unfortunately for many of us, when we have been exposed to project management training, we are quickly overwhelmed with impenetrable technical jargon and a multitude of tools and templates to properly “do” project management.  We spend our study time searching for a PMBOK Rosetta Stone!

Therefore, many managers overlook the value of integrating the basic principles of good project management into their work environment:

  • setting measurable objectives;
  • developing a work plan;
  • tracking and communicating progress against milestones;
  • and evaluating results.

These steps are all directly related to an effective employee performance and/or work management process.

The Good News

You can successfully manage a project without being an expert on the subtleties of project management (PM) - you just need some basic tools and procedures, and the confidence to apply them properly. You need to build your PM toolbox.

Do I need Project Management training?

If any of these apply to you, then you probably need some project management training:

  • You’ve just been assigned a project and do not know how to start.
  • You’ve been chosen as the project sponsor and don’t know what you should expect from your project manager.
  • Your projects are often falling off track.
  • You don’t know if your projects are on track or not.
  • You have too many projects on your to-do-list and don’t know how to prioritize them.

All that you may need is a one-day workshop designed for the business person that will lead you through the project process from initiation to closure.

There are many courses and training tools available to anyone who is interested in developing this skill set.  And, these development activities provide an excellent example for those who are looking to implement the Public Service renewal objective of moving learning closer to the workplace.

A Dash of Discipline

The point of adopting project management discipline in the work environment?

It allows managers to:

  • effectively communicate what is required;
  • emphasize the behaviours expected of employees;
  • identify the competencies employees need to develop.

These PM abilities can be applied easily and will develop naturally as experience is acquired.

Project management may seem complex when you’re starting out. But - after a little practice - you will likely come to realize that it is really about common sense salted with a dash of discipline.

PM is People!

Maybe you have had experiences working with professional project managers who have turned you off by focusing too much on tools and techniques, and not enough on the “people” side of project management.

PM is, after all, about working effectively with people. Once you have learned its fundamental principles, you can adapt your approach to any size, type, or complexity of project.

But at its core, PM provides a framework for effective communication between people – and this is a capability that every successful manager requires.

Comments

In my experience, project management discipline is critical to almost everyone in middle management and above. And what is critical about this discipline is exactly the fundamentsls Ian Jackson describes in this blog. Finding tools at the right scale and sticking with them, and getting one’s team to accept them and see their value and not undermine them with ‘workarounds’ is the main challenge.

In that light, I have been reflecting on Jim Taggart’s e-book on the Learning Organization. How can one combine the disciplines of project management with the creative empowerment Jim believes in? Those of us who have managed large complex projects need to discuss more the intersection between discipline, creativity, and responding to changing circumstances by empowered employees.

By Ellen Godfrey on 2011/05/03

This is quite interesting. I started my career with a four year degree in commerce with a minor in sport administration. The nature of sport administration is project management in terms of organizing the numerous events that happen each year. We learned of systems, reviews, processes, etc. I went on to work in this field and was involved with everything from local tournaments, to international games to grass roots programs.
Later on I wrongly assumed that everyone had this type of background. The cost of not understanding how to design a ‘project’ and kick start the actions needed to make something happen can be seen by a lack of innovation in many organizations. In fact, there are some consulting firms selling innovation services which are really project management services with a new brand…..they use some basic concept creation work to develop ideas for new potential ‘innovations’ and then put in place basic project management strategies to make some happen.

By ed bernacki on 2011/09/25

Hi Ed
You have captured the essence of what I was trying to say. The value of project managmenht skills as “generic” managment skills if should not be be under estimated. In many occuptaions there are valuable training programs focusing on the professional/job skills but little attention paid to the “project management” skills that enable employees to be leaders at all levels of the organization and fully engaged in innovation and capacity building that are critical in modern organizations.

By Ian Jackson on 2011/09/26

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