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Project Management – Basics

Graphic of different businessesThe term “project management” refers to a more specialized management and control process that is associated with particular activities that fit within the definition of a “project.”

Projects are unique (not routine) activities undertaken by an organization in order to achieve certain goals that inherently carry a higher degree of risk than normal. The theory is that the risk associated with the defined project can be better managed, mitigated and controlled by applying what’s referred to as the project management process or “framework.”

In addition to being unique, projects are characterized by their temporary life-span. Eventually, the project’s goal will have been achieved. Once achieved, the project managers and all other team members move on to do something else.

For example, a project can be initiated for the specific purpose of implementing an ERP system. An organization that has embarked on the ERP project is assumed to have the singular goal of implementing only one ERP system, not more than one ERP system. Organizations typically don’t have more than one ERP system. (However, there are some exceptions to this assumption in the event that the organization is “international.”) Thus, the project’s goal is deemed to be unique. Once the ERP system has been successfully implemented, the project process ceases to exist and terminates. The project’s life-span, or “duration,” as it is sometimes called, is therefore temporary.

As PMI.org (Project Management Institute) notes, in project management “all projects must be expertly managed to deliver the on-time, on-budget results, learning and integration that organizations need. Project Management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”

The project manager is the individual who is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the project goes smoothly, is completed on time, and that the project’s goals are achieved. Unfortunately, projects don’t always go perfectly as planned. It is incumbent on the project manager to learn from his or her mistakes, and then apply what’s learned from the previous project to subsequent projects.

The following project management mistakes, as noted by author Bethany Cartwright, are intended to highlight potential problematic issues that can be encountered during a project management engagement:

  1. Getting the Wrong People and Giving the Wrong Tasks

    Consider which tasks people can accomplish the best. Projects don’t go well when people feel they can do some tasks better than the person who is already working on it. This requires a firm understanding of each team member’s strength, weakness, and temperament.

  2. Failing to Get Everyone on the Team Behind the Project.

    Sales skills are not just for customers. Good sales skills are necessary for selling a project’s vision to the team working on it. When people don’t care about what they’re doing, they won’t do it well or sometimes at all. If you want your project to have energy, you have to make sure your people have energy too. In other words, don’t assume that your team will automatically “get the vision.” Prepare an effective presentation--just as you would do with a sales presentation for big clients--and put real effort into selling the purpose and value of the project to your team members.

  3. Lack of Communication and Meetings

    When making your plan, remember to set up meetings and different ways of effectively communicating, according to your team’s needs. Don’t be afraid to go virtual. Award-winning team collaborative tools like Slack could go a long way in creating the right kind of environment for the project.

  4. Being Too Optimistic and Not Being Flexible

    Expect problems. If you posture the mindset of the team to expect problems, accept them when they come, and calmly work to move the project past those problems, it will bring down your stress level when it happens. If you create a sense of unrealistic optimism, it will make the team environment fragile, and any unexpected problem could be the leak the sinks the ship and ruins the team’s morale.

  5. Micromanaging

    As the project manager, try to subdue the micromanaging side of your personality and realize that micromanaging only puts stress on both the micromanager and the micromanaged. It also conveys a lack of trust, as if you felt your team was not trustworthy, and this can damage the team’s effectiveness and your ability to lead the team.

  6. Using Bad Software or Using Software Badly

    Project management software, such as the one mentioned in point three, can be extremely useful for organization and communication during the project, but it’s not an end-all-fix-all. Make sure the project team is comfortable using it and don’t force feed a team technology just because you think it is great, especially if the team already has a good system in place that works well.

  7. Using the Wrong Methodology

    Whether you’re using an agile or waterfall method, make sure your method matches the project. Waterfall methods are great for streamlining detailed projects, and agile methods are best for a collaborative environment that thrives on creativity and flexibility. Whichever it is, make sure you and your team are comfortable with how the project is organized, or it won’t end up well.

    Let’s just focus on the negative--i.e. dwelling on the dangers to avoid. It’s also good to focus on what you should be doing. Here are five skills the project manager needs:

  8. The Ability to Delegate and Communicate Effectively

    Your role as project manager is to see the project gets done, not to actually do every single detail. Be detail-oriented, but enable your team to work for you by doling out the responsibility.

  9. Creativity and Flexibility

    If you, as project manager, can be flexible when problems do arise, it’s also helpful to be creative with your solutions to those problems. Don’t be afraid to try less traditional or innovative methods.

  10. Organization and Multitasking

    Being organized will keep you afloat among all of the multitasking that will be necessary to completing the project. Don’t phone in your organizational life, in other words. Take the necessary steps before the project begins to get yourself organized and ready to take on the variety of tasks coming your way.

  11. Time, Resource, and Budget Management Skills

    If the budget is already set up, it’s your job as project manager to manage it. If you’re the one creating the budget, you need to be able to include it in your strategic project plan.

  12. Team Building and Conflict Management

    If the team enjoys each other’s presence, the project will be more efficient. That is your goal. But if they can’t get along, it’s your job to ensure that the project runs efficiently despite that. Be prepared to practice skilled conflict management and make sure you understand the types of personalities that will be on your team. Be strategic and think ahead. Try to spot conflicts before they happen as you take stock of who will be on your team.

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