‘All in a day’s work’
As a PMI accredited project manager with over twelve years’ experience of supplier-side projects you might imagine that I’ve grown accustomed to my profession and see project management, no matter how complex, as ‘all in a day’s work’. After all, doesn’t boredom inevitably kick in when you do the same kind of work year in, year out?
In the case of project management, nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite the long days and long weeks which I’ve spent on over forty distinct projects I am still passionate about project management – and it is a career to which I remain powerfully committed.
So what makes my profession such an attractive one – and how could it possibly inspire passion?
I will try to explain.
Addicted to competence
Project management is about getting things done. If you have ever tried to do something unusual, perhaps outside of your normal occupation, you will know how difficult this can be. There are always swathes of rules, practices and regulations which you need to consider. People and professions don’t talk to each other, or, when they do talk, they don’t listen – and everyone and their neighbour seems resistant to change. Undertaking any new activity or project can feel a little like walking through mud.
The methods and tools of project management are designed to help you cope with this. They help you initiate a project in a way that gives it some prospect of actually commencing. They help you develop a strategy for reaching your objectives and suggest the means of achieving buy-in for your strategy. They help you pre-empt problems and devise solutions for the problems you can’t avoid. In learning to use a project management methodology you are therefore training yourself in competence –in the art of getting things done… and what could be more enjoyable than that?
I have said in an earlier post that two fundamental principles of project management are look before you leap and learn from when you fell. Project management places considerable emphasis on planning and learning, and as such offers an almost limitless arena for exercising your intellect. You need to anticipate what a project will throw at you, prepare plans to accommodate and mitigate risks, assess who will be involved in a project, determine what they must contribute and what they might require in return, prepare schedules, determine how to measure progress, take measures to ensure an appropriate balance between cost, duration and quality, develop reports and reassure your stakeholders that everything is on track or soon will be. Your project will encounter problems – all projects do – but though problem-solving may occasionally be stressful it can also, intellectually, be fun.
Project management offers variety. Almost by definition no project is precisely the same. A repeatable set of activities is a process not a project. Even where projects are very similar, elements such as the location, stakeholders, objectives, budget and risks will vary. And, from the project management point of view, this has to be a good thing… Who wants to do the same thing again and again?
There are of course challenges to projects – and some projects are far more difficult than others. Some stakeholders can be awkward or obstructive. Sometimes you have too little resource or sometimes you simply have the wrong resource. Sometimes everything that could possibly go wrong seems fated to go wrong… But this provides another reason for my liking project management: these very challenges give you something against which to pit your imagination, your intelligence and your honest hard work.
Good project management requires good communication. People need to know what’s planned, what’s happening, where the problems lie and what’s been achieved. All types of written communication are important: emails, letters, reports, newsletters, guides, specifications, charters, logs, initiation documents, plans; and this documentation must be underpinned by effective verbal communication. There’s nothing like speaking to people, over the phone or, preferably, face to face, to ensure that whatever’s been written down is properly understood. So project management is an engagingly social activity with one thing for certain: there’s absolutely no chance of getting lonely (even if at times you’d like to be!).
Participating with people
In a similar vein, and perhaps most importantly, project management is about people. It is always fun to work with people on a shared endeavour. It is always rewarding to identify people’s aspirations and help them discover ways in which both they and the project can succeed. And few things can be more satisfying than participating in a project with a complex range of stakeholders and seeing the project reach a successful conclusion through shared commitment and effort.
Many careers offer some of the features I describe above without being assigned the label of ‘project management’. You may be a manager in a project orientated organisation, or someone who works in a swiftly changing business environment or you may be an independent entrepreneur – but, in reading this, I hope I have convinced you that project management, no matter how it is named, is clearly the career of choice.
© Luke Andreski 2012. All rights reserved