How to simplify the black art of project management
A simple concept. Which over time has been made to look far harder than it is.
Over time that has made project management a real black art. One which most people have grown to hate.
Here’s the thing though, project management is:
A set of processes which let us break up a complex task into many small and simple parts
For example, if you want to build a house. Chances are if you guestimate what you need. It will be a mess and you will spend much more than you thought.
Project managing the planning and building of the same house. Let’s it get done the right way first time and on budget. At least that’s what we hope.
That’s what project management boils down to. A set of tools and processes to help us plan, de-risk, and complete complex tasks.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Here are some tips I can pass on, to help you navigate the often complex waters of project management in action:
- Join the Project management institute (PMI). You can join as an affiliate member for free. There you get to see their resources. You also get a feel for the project management professional or PMP qualification. And the theory behind it. Plus some links to free resources etc. There are also the prince and ISO project management systems, but they all do the same thing. They also all started from PMI so stick with that.
- You don’t need to use all the tools you’re given. Just as you wouldn’t use all the tools in a 500 piece tool kit to change a wheel. You don’t need to use all the project management tools all the time. Tools like pert estimation, for example, have their place. But if your project doesn’t need them, don’t use them.
- Project management should support the process. Not consume time and resources. As above, if you’re having to spend time, money, and resources. Managing the project management process, then it’s not working for you. Revise accordingly.
- KISS: A project that’s getting 4 people from the USA to India is not the same as building a rocket to the moon. You don’t need to use all the project tools for that, and you don’t need to make it complicated.
In this case, for example, your project charter can be 4 lines in an email. Giving the project manager authority, describing the scope, the timeline, and the budget.
The rocket’s project charter will be a multi-page detailed document with many sign-offs. Breakdown of the project teams and reporting lines, steering committee, sponsors, etc.
Keep it simple stupid as they say. And appropriate to the complexity of the project.
- Tone down the language. Most projects have many documents for you to read. Starting with the project charter, then the management plan, execution plan, etc..
The list goes on. Making those documents easy to read is a win-win. They are easier for us to write, and if they are an easy read. You have a better chance of people reading them.
The project management plan that’s a 500-page masterpiece written like a Shakespeare play?
Most of the time it’s going in the trash. People don’t have the time to digest the language.
Also bear in mind not everyone will be native English readers. A good tool like Hemmingway can help you with the writing. It coaches you to write short lines with simple words.
The simpler it is, the more people will absorb it. The more they do that, the higher the chances of project success.
That’s it when you strip it back to the essentials. Project management is a tool. One that should make life easier. All too often though that’s not the case.
My advice always, and I have been running projects for several years. Is treat the project outcome as the deliverable. The management tools you use to meet that?
Keep them simple, easily explainable, highly readable, and only use what you need.
That’s the secret. It’s not a black art or a complicated science. It should be making your life easier.
If the project management approach used isn’t doing that. Ask yourself why and then act accordingly.