Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What does Project Management mean to me - #pmflashblog

I am writing this article for #pmflashblog , which is a collection of Project Managers around the world, writing on a single topic at a specific time (or reasonably specific time anyway)

The topic of this first #pmflashblog is “What does Project Management mean to me?”

Well, for me being a PM is pretty much about professionalism.  Everything else falls out of that.


A professional seeks to be at the top of his/her game.  They keep up to date with the industry, actually follow best practice (may take some time to get right) and they generally do the right thing in the right way.

I’m not suggesting that a professional gets it right all the time, because I’ve made some absolute howlers.  Neither am I suggesting that their personality is perfect, because I don’t know anyone who fits that bill.  What I’m suggesting that they actively try and do things better each time.

I’ve been walking this path for some time now.  It leads to a lot of thinking, some real breakthroughs and a whole lot of pain - but it is worthwhile to keep putting the effort in because it does pay off in the long run.

So what PM skills do you need to develop in order to make this happen?

Control the main project killers, Pareto style:

As a PM, you need to know that a few things are project killers.  There is a list as long as your arm (or leg) of things that can cause issues, but the key things are these:

1)  Top Management Support
2)  Undefined Success Criteria
3)  Project Stakeholders/Clients have not been interviewed for Project Requirements
4)  Lack of Resources/availability of personnel
5)  PM cannot communicate effectively with clients

These sound really basic.  The simple truth is: yes, they are simple, but they’re the most common project killers and if you keep controlling those, you’re going to be on a better track than those who don’t.

You’re always going to get stuck at some point in a project, but if you control those things then you’ve got a far better chance of success.

Manage the benefits and everything else will come:

Most project managers think in terms of time, cost and performance but the truly enlightened know that a project is all about delivering benefits.  Trust me that no-one will care that you came in under budget if the house has no roof because you de-scoped it in a bid to bring everything in under budget and on time.

Be a servant leader:

Be there to clear blockages for your teams.  It sounds simple, but the only reason that you’re there is to make things easier for them - otherwise you’re chaff.  Be a servant leader, and seek to make things better and easier for the team and they’ll not just support you as the Project Manager, but they’ll make you their God.

Work for the best of the organisation, not yourself:

If you work in the best interests of the organisation, then that will be noticed.  People will try to do you over from time to time (think daily) but if you’re working in the best interests of the organisation, then they’ll be seen for what they are.  Be clear that’s what you’re doing because people need to know that.  It’s about setting a good example, and doing the right thing.  It will seem thankless at first, but you will be noticed in time.  Play the long game.

Don’t take yourself too seriously:

Seriously, don’t.  If you can’t find some time to have a laugh and a joke even when things are getting really bonkers, then go and work in a supermarket or anywhere but here.  Life is too short to be too serious and people don’t really like folk who aren’t approachable.  Many people think that Project Management is about being serious.  Well it is a serious job, but don’t let it get you glum, chum.

Anyhow, hopefully that’s given you an idea about what PM is to me.  Some days are great and others aren’t.  You’ve got to remember that you’re the Rock Star and the Tea Boy, so get in there and make a cuppa.  Mine’s a tea, milk no sugar!!

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