Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What does project management mean to me?

Although the term "project manager" was literally unknown to me until I was in my twenties, I knew right away upon learning it that I had been one my whole life; it was nice to finally have a name for the approach I had taken to everything from homework to athletics to relationships. 

For me, project management is logically organizing your world in the interest of accomplishing something. Just that simple. 

PMBOK defines project management is "the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently." I don't disagree with this definition (lest the PMI Gods strike down my PMP) but I have some quarrel – this is going to sound strange! – with the very word "project." I believe it far more fruitful to think about project management as a core competency applicable to any challenge, not just those units of work that we frame as projects. 

In fact, many organizations desperately in need of professional project management founder around because they're afraid of labeling initiatives as projects – the term carries heavy baggage! How many wasted hours do organizations spend each year trying to establish the parameters of how to diagnose a project? Project management has a reputation in some camps as being nothing more than overhead, burdening already-busy people with paperwork and jargon. Too often, this perception is confirmed in reality by project management offices who focus myopically on standards rather than success.

Early in my career, I saw too many projects go south because of credentialed individuals who tried to paint by number, quoting chapter-and-verse from the PMBOK, without due consideration for the needs of the specific endeavor. Having learned to manage projects through a combination of inherent tendencies and careful observations of skilled practitioners, I developed something of a bias against individuals who touted their PMP but didn't fundamentally understand that project management is not about artifacts, rituals, or methodologies – it's about people. World-class project management has to be flexible, organic, responsive, and dynamic.

A few years ago, my employer subjected us to the Predictive Index (http://www.piworldwide.com/Solutions/Predictive-Index-System/Predictive-Index.aspx) which is a survey that produces insight into the work habits of team members so that a team leader can anticipate the needs of various individuals, potential conflicts, etc. Here are a few snippets from the report I received:
  • Intense proactivity and aggressiveness in driving to reach goals.
  • Resourceful and forceful in overcoming obstacles, vigorously and directly attacks problems
  • Incredibly strong sense of urgency; in nearly constant motion, putting pressure on himself and others for immediate results.
  • Detail-oriented: typically makes and follows a plan to keep track of things and usually follows up to ensure completion.

Gee, that almost sounds like a job description for a project manager, doesn't it? There are some important missing ones such as empathy and agility, but I think I might just be a good fit for the program management industry…

Back to my definition: project management is logically organizing your world in the interest of accomplishing something. What's important to me is that the tools and techniques of project management – codified so nicely by PMI and PRINCE2 – are universally applicable to problems, projects, challenges, goals. Show me how it can be anything but a benefit to decompose activities into logical chunks with clear dependencies. Or to assess risks and systematically defuse them. Or to manage unexpected change and figure out what has to give? These are life skills, period.

Having applied project management techniques to vacation planning, wedding planning, college admissions, my undergraduate thesis, our recent move to the suburbs, plus a dozen multi-million dollar IT implementations and business transformation projects – I truly believe that the right kind of enlightened project management is the key success factor for every undertaking!

P.S. This post is published as part of a first ever project management related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Seventy six (76!) bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labor is now (literally NOW) available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is found here so please go and check them out!



At September 30, 2013 at 10:22 PM, Blogger Shim Marom said...

Hi Jason, thanks for taking part in the #PMFlashBlog initiative.

As I make my way through all blog contributions I attempt to find in each post the key message it projects.

In your case, the message I take is the following:

"For me, project management is logically organizing your world in the interest of accomplishing something. Just that simple".

Thanks again, Shim


<< Home