What is Project Management?
By definition, project management is the process and activity of planning, organizing, motivating and controlling resources to achieve specific goals. However, at its core, project management is much more. It is the ability to transition from a pure functional role to a practice that is deeply embedded in an organization’s strategic initiatives. Today, companies are becoming more and more project focused. In fact, many companies directly correlate successful project management to the success and growth of their organizations.
Smart organizations understand that proven project management practices lead to greater success and less waste
An effective project management strategy can make or break a company.
Who is a Project Manager?
Currently, there are more than 800,000 Certified Project Management Professionals (PMP)® worldwide, but by all accounts, there are millions more who perform project management duties in their day-to-day job functions that don’t bear the title of PMP. Project management occurs at every level of every organization, regardless of industry or profession. Today’s business professionals, whether you sport the official title of project manager or not, are expected to take on a wide range of responsibilities and wear a number of different “hats” to get the job done. In fact, a majority of today’s workforce is responsible for managing multiple projects that are often occurring simultaneously, and many are doing so with little or no formal project management training. For these organizations, taking a non-technical approach to project management can help in a number of different ways.
A Simple Approach for the Everyday Project Manager
It is imperative that professionals who manage projects regularly and project managers who are not certified or “everyday project managers” understand the value of using a simple, practical approach that will help them effectively work on and manage projects successfully. However, before outlining how everyday project managers can effectively organize and execute a project, it is crucial to identify the hurdles these managers face every day.
Hurdles for everyday project managers:
1. Time: Most everyday project managers feel overwhelmed by too much to do and therefore are unable to make the time to do the necessary planning. However, planning will eliminate stress and missed deadlines throughout the duration of the project.
2. Assumptions: Everyday project managers, like all of us, do not know what they do not know. They need the right tools in order to recognize faulty assumptions that can negatively impact their projects, productivity and success.
3. Training: Most everyday project managers have not been taught a project management process that is applicable to their types of projects. If they have been exposed to project management training, it is either in Microsoft Project (which many find overwhelming) or through project management templates that are too involved for their level of projects.
Timing Is Everything
The struggles of everyday project managers are deeply rooted in how these managers spend their time. More often than not, everyday project managers site lack of time as the reason for not being able to accomplish key project milestones that lead to successful outcomes.
For a clearer understanding of how people manage time, it is helpful to look at Stephen Covey’s “Time Matrix”, which was made famous in his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” (see exhibit 1). The Time Matrix asserts that all the events that make up our lives fall into one of the following four quadrants:
Quadrant 1: Situations are both urgent and important. Urgency is defined as requiring immediate action and importance is related to how much we value something.
Example: An accident. If we see an accident, it is important that we stop what we are doing and take immediate action. Not only is it important, but it is also urgent that we respond quickly. More examples include project crisis, working on something just before it is due and putting out fires at work.
Quadrant 2: Situations have a high sense of importance and a low sense of urgency.
Example: Taking care of oneself. It is important to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Yet many people only take care of themselves when there is a problem (when it becomes a Q1). Being proactive and taking care of situations in a timely manner is acting in Q2. This is the quadrant of leadership. It includes situations such as planning, prioritizing and preparation. Project management techniques and processes are Q2 activities.
Quadrant 3: Situations have a low sense of importance and a high sense of urgency.
Example: A ringing telephone. The ringing creates a sense of urgency and looking at the caller ID tells us how important the call is to us right now. From there, we decide how to act by answering the phone or letting it go to voicemail. Much of our workday is filled with Q3s like unproductive meetings, an influx of e-mails, unimportant phone calls and minor interruptions.
Quadrant 4: Situations are low in importance and low in urgency.
Example: A friend who dislikes their job and complains about it every time you see them. At a certain point, listening to their complaints without them taking any action is a waste of time. Q4 is the quadrant of waste and excess and includes situations such as too much socializing at work, procrastination and busy work.
When asked which quadrant we should be spending our time in, people readily answer: Q2. When asked which quadrants we actually spend our time in, people hesitantly confess: Q1, Q3 and Q4. The truth is that we spend time in all four quadrants. However, the more time we spend in Q2 (where the situation has a high sense of importance and a low sense of urgency), the less time we are forced to spend in the other quadrants. It is especially clear that if project managers spend more time planning in Q2, they will have fewer fire-drill situations. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to put this into practice.