Guide: A 2021 induction to Project Management
Let’s talk Project Management… A few days ago, while mindlessly browsing the internet, I stumbled upon this:
And unless you live under a rock, you will recognize this “starter pack” meme. Those who have not heard about it (Hello rock-people!). Let me introduce you – “This is the internet” – a wonderful place with “fantastic beasts” called memes – they’re great! This one (according to Know Your Meme), is a sourdough mix of pictures that –
“Illustrates the archetype of a celebrity, company or subculture through a recommended selection of fashion articles, multimedia, and other consumer products.”
This got me wondering… While memes are great and all, the internet lacks a serious starter kit for project managers. A crash course of sorts, a tiny “PM for dummies”, or “Things I wish I knew about before getting this PM job”
So here we go – some tools, information, resources, and a sprinkle of advice on top.
I AM ALPHA AND OMEGA
Let’s get down to the basics. What is project management?
PMI, the Project Management Institute, gives us the definition:
“The process aimed at using a set of skills, knowledge, tools, and techniques to plan, implement, manage, and successfully deliver a project, considering such aspects as timescale, people, and budget.”
Thus, it’s simple to conclude that a “Project Manager” (here on out – PM) is someone whose duty it is. A PM is the focal point of the whole endeavour from its inception to its conclusion. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning, and the end…
Allegedly, a good PM is the hardest position to fill the shoes of. There are many skill-sets and qualities that make a PM good at what he does, so let us explore what makes a great project manager, before the theory dive.
WHAT AM I?
They say “You are what you eat”; Thus, we select only the best ingredients for our PMs and these are:
Any PM worth his salt is proficient in the industry he works in. When it comes to IT, the PM should have an excellent understanding of PM software.
This implies the usage and comprehension of various agile kits. These expand from project management suites to forecasting, budgeting, tech reporting, etcetera. So, get ready to understand quite a handful of interfaces.
A good start would be looking into: Jira, Teamwork, AceProject, Buildertrend, WorkflowMax, BuildTools, Procore, etc.
This skill is truly an asset that makes PMs stand out. Managing a project demands handling massive influxes of information that requires analysis. Streamlining data via “Google Data Studio” or “Power BI” will speed-up delivery and trim deadlines.
This is a whole plethora of skills common to all project managers. Such include having a confident business management acumen, planning, scheduling, and time management. Chief among them: forming a team with the right mix of tech knowledge and efficient assignment. For one cannot have them all without it.
Leadership and Charisma
Arguably the most important skill needed for effective project management. Negotiations, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, coaching and training skills, a positive attitude and enthusiasm. These are all key qualities to inspire and motivate the team in achieving the best results.
We cannot overlook strong interpersonal skills. These enable stakeholder comprehension about the project’s activities, goals, progression, and outcomes.
You are both the tip on the spear and the glue that holds the team together.
Having the ability to handle change is vital for successful project management. Like any business cycle, a project goes through an implementation process. This might result in unexpected occurrences which can impact the overall outcome.
Thus, knowing how to react in such circumstances, is paramount.
Get ready to take prompt decisions, change direction, or re-plan. Such prep work involves anticipating possible risks and project threats. Though a true heavy-lifter for your brains, it will ensure a prize-worthy completion.
In a perfect world, skills would be enough, alas… responsibilities are a thing. Let’s explore that.
A bird’s eye view would be the easiest way to browse through responsibilities. That’s why we screened typical PM processes as a diagram & list combo. Consider this your MO for every project:
1. Project Initiation
- Understand the project’s concept and idea feasibility;
- Set micro and macro goals;
- Evaluate available resources;
- Assess activities and negotiate the project’s requirements;
It’s the first phase of any project; essentially this is your homework and preparation stage. This requires a PM to understand the core principle of the project and whether it’s even sustainable (both financially or tech-wise). Negotiate deadlines and expectations with the stakeholders. This comes before you involve anyone else on your team.
- Diligently review the project’s processes and final outcomes;
- Identify the project’s goals and prioritize tasks for step-by-step project implementation;
- Set and manage the allocated budget by controlling costs;
- Establish timelines and set schedules for all project deliverables;
- Contingency assessment and planning – risk/cost evaluation;
Extensive Project Planning is paramount to cutting excess expenditure and challenge/change management. Any veteran project manager will confirm: sooner rather than later, something will go haywire. When it does, you will either face that challenge or pay the cost expressed in budget surges and/or mental health. There is no middle ground.
This is inevitable. The best you can do is: plan for every contingency, assess risks, and come up with solutions. Draft a clear resource distribution chart (such as budget, workforce, and time), outline a clear roadmap of your project, and make sure your stakeholders are on the same page. After all, the impact is smoother when everyone is aware of what can go wrong and how can you mitigate or change direction.
And finally, understand there is no such thing as “always prepared” – things will go south. Therefore, true professionals budget contingencies from day 0.
- Set up a team and delegate tasks for timely completion of the project goals;
- Report the project’s progress as required;
- Main and update daily the project report;
- Keep constant communication with all project stakeholders throughout the project;
- Manage your team effectively by offering coaching, training, and supervision;
- Ensure timely deliverables throughout the project;
- Adapt to inevitable problems occurring during the cycle;
This stage is all about the plan’s implementation and execution of the planning stage. Set expectations for your team members and communicate them clearly. Otherwise, you might as well throw out the window any timeline or delivery premises.
This is where most of the time something goes wrong with… well, everything. If you were lucky and smart enough to foresee it, great!
More often than not though, expect to draft plans “on the go”. Of course, these must follow “change management principles” aka common sense. Clear motives, along with an inspiring and convincing description are your best companions if you want it done. Cut all roadblocks, expose advantages, and “sell” the required changes – especially when you see the house’s on fire.
When required to change course, be aware, open, and prepared for ever-changing environments. A good idea: coach someone! At some point, this “Force Majeure” will need someone to load-balance the blow.
In general, communication is key, and it is your job to keep this link alive between everyone involved, at all times. We must never forget: we’re working with people, not machines. You must understand where the team is at, particularly if someone is struggling or requires that extra help. But make no mistake, your job is not about pushing your team, it is about listening to them, and understanding the path to a shared solution or even a possible workaround.
4. Monitoring & Control
- Evaluate the project’s progress, assess opportunities, and manage risks;
- Ensure that all deliverables are quality assured and validated;
- Measure the team performance through set targets;
- Test, improve and deliver the completed project;
- Ensure customer satisfaction with your project;
This is where PMs really get to shine, and possibly burn, depending on the outcome of the whole endeavour. You must ensure the project meets its core targets, has passed the QA tests with flying colours, and most importantly: meets clients’ requirements.
You will have to stand with your team at the front of their work and bear the brunt of the responsibility. At the end of the day, you oversaw the project and you take full accountability for it, good or bad, not your team.
5. Projects closing phase
- Handoff the final project to stakeholders;
- Report on closing the project;
Congratulations! Your project passed all the requirements, it satisfies the stakeholders, it’s officially out of your hands now! This stage is about delivering the final product and doing the end project evaluations of your team and resources.
Now is the time to improve and learn from past mistakes, which leads us to…
EVALUATING THE PROJECTS OUTCOME
Done with the heavy lifting! It is high noon to get a better understanding of measuring outcomes and monitoring “Course Enhancement”. In our industry self-improvement is paramount to staying above the curve!
Here is a list of things to consider:
First, you should analyse the initial project objectives. If you got those boxes ticked – check on other project elements like client, team, and timeframes to see how they align. You will most definitely need to replicate that success and learn from those hiccups.
Time restrictions apply to all projects, thus evaluating scheduled meetings is vital. Understanding your scheduling will identify roadblocks to avoid in future projects.
Evaluate if you managed to complete your project within the allocated budget. Consider it a great indicator of “Unicorn”-like success. Most of the times, you will go at least 10% over that initial figure. Regardless of your cash bleed, assess causes and find better cost control solutions. Better yet, do that during the project. Here are a few tips on how to cut costs when working with mobile apps.
Quite often, Project Managers ignore team satisfaction when assessing a project. This is a rookie mistake because all members put their time and effort into achieving a common goal. Remember your team is your most valuable resource.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
If you do not get why this is paramount, perhaps ignore the service area entirely!? Without your customer’s feedback, there is no path to improvement – in fact – there’d be no project since this one, is about 70% of your PM efforts.
Delivering a successfully completed project is the main objective. However, measuring the quality levels will also bring insight regards task ease or difficulty, critical issues, used strategies, and stakeholder’s level of satisfaction.
Whether you’re taking your first steps in the world of start-ups, beginning to create your own MVP, or want to optimize your companies’ practices….Or, if you just want to make sure everyone gets how important your job is and you need to show your team members with a concise piece of “article genius”. Sic.
— Greg Cimmarrusti PMP (@gcimmarrusti) May 14, 2018
But before kicking-off, you should see if this job is right for you. Can you handle all the challenges? It’s advisable to test the waters and see if you are ready for all the job can throw at you. Read the stories and articles of other project managers, go to social gatherings, talk to the vets, ask questions, ask for advice, or better yet start with a mentor and begin by helping him or her (See Execution).
There are plenty of online PM courses to help you get familiar with the subject. Some even provide practice exercises and assignments to help you gain some experience.
You can find some great material at these places: edX, Alison, Coursera, Simplilearn, Udemy, BrainSensei, GoSkills, or Skillshare.
Also, be prepared to fail. Statistics show that almost all projects are doomed to failure and it is important to not get discouraged and learn from your mistakes.
The internet is full with vast swathes of knowledge on the subject, various guides, and tips and tricks but, no theory in the world will prepare you adequately.
Doesn’t mean that your first project is going to be a guaranteed failure, that is not the case and there are many variables at work here. However, what we can tell you is that becoming a GREAT PM is only possible after years and years of experience in the field.
If you are the kind of person that feels like he has all the above-mentioned skills, and is ready to take on this job with devotion and pleasure we can tell you this is the type of career you will never get bored by. After all that, you still want to become a project manager, there’s a handy (and relevant) tip for weight loss, banging your head against the wall burns 150 calories an hour.
Don’t agree with our professional opinion? Check out a different opinion on this take-in 81 tips from PM experts!
Or better yet tell us now in the comment section what you would change or add to the provided article! As always, we hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as we enjoyed writing it!