What does it take to manage a project?

Published: 22nd June 2006
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What does it take to manage a Project?

By Samuel Lartey, Project Manager

A colleague just walked into my office and asked me 'Samuel, Is Project Management the career for me? He mentioned he had successfully implemented several projects in his career and has played various roles on many different projects from his previous employment. He agrees project management can be tedious, and appreciates there are many processes involved in the accomplishment of a project objective and in implementing a successful project. On the other hand he believes that project management is becoming a booming profession not just in the service sector but also in the manufacturing sector just as it has been in the traditional and familiar construction sector.

My colleague needs to take a profession that would provide him with the excitement, challenge and reward that he expected. He is therefore in my office to share some ideas with me to find what it takes to make the project management that career of choice.

What came to mind immediately was to explain and embed Project Management concept to my colleague. What Processes, Knowledge and Competencies are required to manage a project? To make life look comfortable to all we set forth our discussions on these premise. To gain an understanding of his previous work experience, his project management background and the processes he followed; what knowledge, tools and techniques one requires, and to establish an understanding of his personal and professional developmental needs.

Managing Project Processes:

We started sharing our ideas by discussing what previous, formal or informal training and exposure he had before embarking on his projects management. What processes he followed and what documentation he has in place that will assist not only him but any other person that may take up his role when he is unavailable. We discussed that any person, group or organisation can manage a project but to effectively manage a successful project you need to acquire certain knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to initiate-gain definition, authorisation, for the project start, plan-the course of action required to attain the project objectives, execute-the integration of people and other resources to carry project plans, monitor- measuring and monitoring project progress and to close-to formalize acceptance of projects on time, within a specific customer specification and within budgets. It is when you have gone through these processes successfully that you can sit and say to yourself I have achieved a project success. You can then gain the inner satisfaction that you have followed a rigorous project process to achieve a project success. When you manage your projects following these processes you find some flexibility in the management process. Some project managers have a well defined checklist labeled under the five process headings.

Managing Project Knowledge:

We discussed secondly that few fields of endeavour offer the excitement, challenge, diversity, sense of accomplishment and reward that the practioners will require. But project management does. Project management allows you to work with people (Project Human Resource Management); it hones your communication skills (Project Communication Management); it restricts you to work within the limits and only the limits set for you to operate and no more (Project Scope Management). Project management allows you and your project sponsor to set acceptable timelines and deadlines by which outputs will be delivered (Project Time Management). It came out clear also form the discussion that to effectively manage a successful project the project manager has the full opportunity far before start to sniff the sensitivity and otherwise of all factors, risk and issues that can impair the project (Project Risk Management). An effective project manager would plan his budget for the completion of the project and will work within the cost (Project Cost Management). He will identify all the procurements and third parties that will be required for the smooth running of the project (Project Procurement Management) and would effective deal with them accordingly. One important knowledge area in project management is the quality of the project (Project Quality Management). One writer said the cost, and time is not the ultimate to the customer but the quality and satisfaction that will be derived from the project deliverables (Project Quality Management). Finally we shared the idea that not until all these 9 areas of knowledge are effectively managed you are not delivering a successful project.

Managing Personal Skills and Competencies:

A project manager needs a variety of skills both interpersonal and management. We discussed that the skills one requires to become an effective project manager is quite complex and diverse. We concluded that just like any other manager, the project manager must be able to plan, organize, coach. He must be able to manage change, communicate, deliver results, and control. Most effective project managers motivate, inspire, and negotiate; they lead and are customer focused. To make good our discussion on the mix of skills, we rather turned on attention onto a cooking context and discussed what it takes to win such contest. We agreed that all contestants are provided the same ingredients to manage in the context. Provided with the same ingredients, one would eventually emerge a winner. What makes the difference? The individuals! How one combines the same personal and management skills that all managers have makes the difference between a good your project manager and the bad.

In conclusion we shared the idea that to manage a project a not different from managing any operation or work package. What is needed is an understanding of the work to execute, the scope of work to execute, the time required to execute that work, the cost of that work and a good knowledge of the customer you want to satisfy. When these knowledge areas are well defined and managed, pronto you are on the right way to becoming a Project Manager.

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