Are you an unofficial project manager?

I have just the blog for you! The article I found includes six project management skills taught by FranklinCovey (“7 Habits of Highly Effective People”).  The article is dated, but hopefully you will find the skills still very relevant. I have provided the six skills (paraphrased) and included my thoughts.

1. Implement foundational behaviors to master informal authority. Respect all stakeholders that may affect the outcome of the project, and you will receive the best work. Showing you value the stakeholders helps you inspire following, without formally establishing authority.

  • Thoughts:  One easy way to develop this skill is to lead a meeting.  This informal leadership is accomplished through organizing the discussion, seeking feedback, and keeping the meeting focused. If there is someone else who wants to lead, you always have the final say to end with a summary and a list of next steps.

2. Initiate. Identify and interview a project’s stakeholders. It is best to avoid the question “Why didn’t you check with me?” when verifying stakeholders. Planning ahead ensures you do not make the wrong assumptions about key people, and helps to set expectations and results.

  • Thoughts:  This skill takes time because you have to learn who to seek for information. From my experience, you may not know a key stakeholder at the beginning of a project. Based on issues raised, you may have to reach out to someone you had not previously worked with. It has been effective to include that person in the middle of the project, and explain that a new issue may require their feedback.

3. Plan. Identify risks, and create a plan to manage them. It is strong wording, but the article mentions failure if you do not have a schedule, in writing.  Also, what is your number one risk?

  • Thoughts: I found this one to be the most straightforward. A great practice of risk is to ask “if I do nothing, will it get worse?”

4. Execute. Holding people accountable is the article’s main focus. The leader should not embarass anyone, but ensure support is given to complete a task.

  • Thoughts: This may prove most challenging to a project manager. What has worked for me is to ask questions like “what can I do to help?” and “where do you see the bottleneck?”

5. Monitor and control. The most important thing here is managing changes in scope. The Project Manager has to have that conversation if change occurs, and discuss results of a change in scope in dollar value or other measure.

  • Thoughts: I read about team projects from the blog and listened to 2 students in class as they shared what can happen with “project creep.”  Project creep is costly in time or resources, so it’s advantageous to stay focused.

6. Close. Review lessons, and recognize accomplishments.

  • Thoughts:  There is a sense of excitement to completion!  Celebration is necessary and also creates an environment to do it again!

I most identified with skill numbers 1, 3, and 5. What skills do you most identify with?


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The Many Faces of PM

When our professor asked if we had been project managers, my immediate reaction was “no”. Yet upon further thought, I realized that I have informally managed projects numerous times, typically from a volunteer position though. I have even directed some large fundraisers for non-profits before. I have seen projects soar to success and I have seen projects plummet in failure. Have I consciously participated in the hard science of strategized project management? No.

As an individual, I am hyper-organized by nature, so I understand the benefits of project management. There are so many details, people, and resources that must be constantly monitored in order to successfully implement a project. This to me, is the science of project management, the method you choose as a project manager. Kay Wais, a PMI certified professional with twenty-four years of project management experience, has devoted her time to preparing students for the PMP exams. She describes in brief the many methodologies of project management (who knew there were so many options!).

  • Waterfall: emphasizes the planning stages before implementation; very common in software development
  • Agile: constant communication and more flexible requirements in the planning stages allow for speedier project delivery
  • Six Sigma: more of an operations management methodology, but applicable in some PM instances; follows these six stages: define, measure, analyze, improve, control, synergize; can be helpful to identify defects and keep a project in line with certain standards

Other methods include SCRUM, RAD, NPI, PER, Kanban, and more. What do you think is the ideal method in project management? I believe that the ideal is project specific. However, there are some disadvantages with each method as well that are important to recognize before starting a new project.

For example, the waterfall method is very detailed in planning specific requirements, but this takes time. If the industry is one that prizes the best and the latest innovations, this is probably not the method to choose. On the other hand, let us consider the agile method. The flexibility in specifications and communication allows for a project to morph into a different shape mid-process but this leaves you with a less decisive end goal. As a result, projects completed with the agile method are often completed in installments or smaller pieces of the unclear end goal. If you are working on a large project, the waterfall method might serve better to establish solid foundational specifications and goals <em>before</em> you continue on to the “design” phase.

Now on to the art aspect of project management. In my informal experience, I have discovered that what makes project management an art is not just a matter of managing different personalities. It is also the art of managing different expectations, of managing the disappointment of setbacks, of managing the coordinated effort of people from diverse backgrounds and talents. These are the invisible elements of project management which cannot be taught. How do you think someone should approach learning more of the art of project management?