How does Project Management Work?
Project Management is great, but…
How Does It Work?
We know it does – and Project Management has been working stunningly well for thousands of years.
Maybe you start off with ‘that’s obvious’. Then you realize it’s not.
But eventually… You realize you did know the answer after all.
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It’s a set of tools, methodologies, processes, and attitudes that we’ve curated over centuries to help us deal with projects.
Projects tend to have constraints over what we can do, how long we have to do them, and what resources we can deploy. Despite this, they often aim to deliver something new and innovative, or large and complex. Or both.
The toolset helps us cope with the pressures, uncertainties, and risks that arise from what projects are.
It’s actually a very good question. And I can capture the answer in one word… CONTROL
As a Project Manager, there is nothing I want more than to bring a complex, uncertain environment, with lots of moving parts and risks, under control. The toolset provides me with the capability to do that.
Yeah, yeah… But how?
1. Being clear about what we need to create (Project Definition).
There are many tools to help us do this because it is both the most fundamental and the most difficult part. You’ll hear words like ‘scoping’, ‘capability’, ‘goal’, objectives’, ‘functionality’, and ‘specification’.
2. Breaking the job into small parts.
For this, we use tools like Work Breakdown Structures. Then we allocate the parts to specific time and budget segments. And then we sequence them, with planning tools like network charts, Gantt Charts, Cost Breakdown Structures, and budgets.
3. We manage the parts and the whole, but we also manage the relationships between team members, and with stakeholders.
These are the glue that holds our projects together, but if we get it wrong, our project can soon get stuck in the wrong configuration.
4. We use Project Controls to stick to our plan, and to get back on plan when things go wrong (and they do).
Project controls include risk management, change control, version control, configuration management, monitoring and reporting, benefits management, and more.
5. We adopt a structured, rigorous, analytical approach to the job.
And we balance this with a compassionate, developmental, and respectful approach to the people.
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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