Professional Project Management
Project management – in the past, the concept was generally confined to the fields of construction and civil engineering. Historically, a project manager was generally a master builder, possibly an engineer or architect, who oversaw large-scale construction works. In the 1950s, engineering models began to be applied to management principles and the separate discipline of project management coalesced.
Now, the application of project management strategies is routine in most industries and large-scale endeavors, and nearly every organization of any size will employ some standardized project planning approach in an effort to bring efficiency to the process of completing tasks with defined scopes in terms of time and resources. Project management has gone from something carried out on an informal and often ad-hoc basis to being a recognized profession with associated education, training, and career paths.
The Effective Project Manager
A study by the Project Management Institute of the implementation of Organizational Project Management practices by United States Federal Government Agencies reveals several project management attributes that are associated with higher project and program success rates. First of all, strong, hands-on leadership from management is crucial. A good leader needs to be involved in every aspect of the project, coordinating between the workforce and any external stakeholders or partners while providing a definitive roadmap and objective set stretching from project initiation to satisfactory completion. The leader needs to monitor progress closely and stay in constant contact with all team members and stakeholders. Being able to take the role of educator or mentor when needed is essential, and the leader should be ready to coach as well, building the team cohesion and confidence that can contribute enormously to the quality of both process and outcome.
It is important that project leaders are committed to the principles of project management and experienced in the practicalities of carrying it out on the ground. If possible, leaders should have the benefit of formal training and certification. Ideally, a manager will possess a combination of training and experience that has resulted in a clear and complete understanding of project management theory and practice. In any case, an effective leader will know the value of standard organizational approaches to project management as well as how to effectively adapt and formalize situation-specific practices as needed.
Although it was touched on above, it bears repeating that an ongoing focus on transparency supported by regular communication is foundational to successful leadership and optimal project outcomes. Scheduled meetings, reporting sessions, and site visits should be combined with impromptu discussions and feedback sessions. The trusting relationships that arise from the practice of transparent and frequent communication can help to ward off or reduce the severity of any problems that might arise. Remember to include all stakeholders – from executive level administrators to employees in the field – in communication networks. Related to this type of effective communication is team building and stakeholder engagement that promote the development of a vested interest in project success along with increased levels of respect and understanding that will help the work to go smoothly.
Good Tools Make the Job Easier
Thankfully, advances in technology mean that project managers can now access tools that let them meet the important objectives discussed above. In fact, the right set of project planning tools can do much more than simply make it easy to closely monitor progress and maintain open lines of communication. Nowadays, project resource management, personnel scheduling, time reporting, productivity and workload reporting, and more can all be carried out from a simple desktop tool or even from a mobile device. It is all a matter of choosing the best project planning software for the particular type of work that will be undertaken. Much like some of the various social software and online productivity tools that are so popular today, a good resource management software suite joins project team members and stakeholders in a network and provides communication linkages as well as specialized tools that support team member’s functions or roles.