Project Management is for Everyone
by James Van Doren
If you’ve ever been asked to take on a new task and had no idea where to begin, then welcome to the club. If you’ve ever wondered how you’ll get everything on your to-do list done, you are part of an even larger club. And if you’ve ever worried over what to leave alone, and what to complete, well, guess what? You are part of the biggest club of all. And you probably aren’t surprised. The pace of business is such that the demands on employees, managers, and executives are constant. Consider these interesting statistics:
-According to an April 2010 MetLife study, approximately 40% of surveyed employees said that their workload has increased in the past 12 months. Employers reaped the benefits, as 36% of the employers surveyed said they saw an improvement in productivity as they stressed the need for increased output.
-According to a March 2010 study of American workers by TNS Research, 48% said they were required to do more with fewer resources And 39% said they were doing the work of two people due to the recession.
-And according to a 2009 report by the Society for Human Resources, approximately 70% of employees felt the need to work beyond their scheduled time and on weekends; more than half cited "self-imposed pressure" as the reason.
These are just a handful of data bytes that confirm what we know intuitively: we are under more pressure than ever to do even more than we feel we have time to do. And it isn’t slowing down. But that doesn’t mean that there is no hope. The light at the end of the tunnel is project management.
A White Paper authored by the Project Management Institute reports that the number of project managers who have received the Project Management Professional credential has grown from 27,052 in 2000 to 306,000 in 2008. And those are just the individuals who identify themselves as project managers. Consider for a moment that among other continuing education providers, demand for project management training is growing even more among people who do not consider themselves to be traditional project managers. At CWRU’s Weatherhead Executive Education department, we are seeing the largest segment of demand coming from people without project management anywhere in their title (or in their job description). The number one reason cited is their need for advanced time and resource management skills.
Doing more with less requires advanced time management, well beyond recording and checking off tasks. Increasingly, employees at all levels are being required to prioritize and decide what will be completed today and what needs to wait until next week. This goes beyond the previous standby of “important, not urgent,” “urgent, not important,” “urgent and important”, and so on. This new paradigm shift means that it is harder to make a snap decision about what gets pushed to the back-burner. Just like a project manager every manager must decide what task to initiate and understand how the work will impact the business. Additionally, their colleagues and supervisors benefit from understanding the ROI that results from the work they do.
Non-project managers can incorporate other aspects of project management into their daily work-life. For example, imagine two managers, Joe and Jane. Both are given the task of creating a new piece of collateral material, communicating something new and exciting to the customer base. The turnaround time is short, and the budget is limited. Joe moves quickly. He pulls together his team, and pulls some previous documents on what they have done before and begins to execute. Jane takes a little more time in the very beginning. She takes a step back and identifies who the stakeholders are. Jane maps what tasks need to be completed and by when, in order to make the deadline. She identifies who is most suited to manage those tasks. Jane even outlines what could go wrong and builds into the plan some loose ideas of what to do “just in case.” Which manager do you think will get the customer piece finished soonest, and with the least people costs? The smart money is on Jane.
This is because to be successful it is critical to keep track of status on tasks, the scope of the job, the budget for that job, what other resources are necessary, and of where you are in terms of deadline. It is also important to determine where the team is at on the road to completing the job. And ask yourself, as Jane does, who else is going to have a say in defining “success” (and who has a stake in that success)?
A “project” can be anything, or rather, anything can be an “everyday project.” An everyday project may be the creation of a new marketing brochure, it may be the implementation of a new HR process, or it may be improving customer service response times. Learning project management tools will make any job easier. At the very least it means knowing where you are going, knowing what success actually is, knowing who should be on your team, and knowing who else may have a say in what and how the job gets done. That perspective alone can save you myriad headaches. So, not only is project management for everyone, but I think it can be argued that everyone is a project manager.
And maybe, just maybe, project management training can mean reducing some of those previously mentioned statistics, gaining some additional peace of mind, and getting back (at least a little) of our work-life balance.
CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management offers one and two-day project leadership programs that are appropriate for individuals at every single level of project management expertise – from the novice to experienced project management professionals. For more information, browse the project leadership subject area. Participants who take four class-days will receive the project leadership certificate. For a nuts-and-bolts focus, consider the Project Execution and the Project Quality courses coming up, March 2012.
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