Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Projects, project management and careers – 3: the projects approach from the project manager perspective

Posted in career development, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 3, 2012

This is my third installment in a series on projects and project management as a career path (see Part 1: projects and operations and Part 2: projects and career paths.) And I begin this by citing a widely respected resource that I have already noted in this series: the Project Management Institute (PMI).

My goal for this posting is not to replicate the vast corpus of methodology and process that the PMI has developed as project management best practices. It is instead, to discuss that type of approach as it impacts on careers and career path choice. And I start this by noting that project management methodologies such as provided through PMI are as complex as they are because they are intended to cover management and execution of essentially any project and regardless of its complexity and scale. As counterpart, I have been writing repeatedly and even seemingly continuously in this blog about operations and strategy in the same way – in an attempt to cover as wide a range of complexities and contingencies as possible.

• Simple projects, like simple operational and strategic issues do not need complexities of methodology or execution, and would in fact be hindered by them.
• So effective project managers need to know when to invoke the methodological details, and where, and when to keep things simple. And this is all about identifying and proactively addressing potential problems and before they can become work-affecting challenges.
• How many people will be called for in completing a project, and would this project’s work create scheduling conflicts for them, and either within the scope of the project itself, or as they work on other task areas too?
• What other resources are going to be needed to carry out and complete this project, and are some of them going to have to be shared, either within the scope of the project or with others outside of this project?
• Does access to some key resource have to be planned into the project design and its schedule?
• Would this affect or determine the order that certain project steps have to be worked upon?
• What steps have to be done in what order, and how does that fit into the above issues of resource availability and scheduling?

Similar questions related to benchmarking and tracking a project on its way to completion could also be added in, along with a wide range of other issues. The point I would raise from this, however, should be clear from just this partial listing.

Successful project managers need to know where and when to add in the complexities and that they should only do so to address specific anticipated needs. And if complexities arise unexpectedly with for example, emergence of unanticipated essential resource access bottlenecks, they know how to add in the methodological details and in ways that work for everyone on the project, and in ways that work for the business as a whole too.

And with that point I move this discussion away from project management per se, and to making projects work in the larger ongoing operational context. And an easy entry point to that, is in how resource bottlenecks and sharing and scheduling requirements would be identified, prioritized and resolved.

Every business has to deal with at least some resource limitations, as every business has a finite operating budget and a finite resource base to work from. This means processes for allocation and scheduling of limited and limiting resources are almost always included in a business’ operational processes. And if a business does not have them yet it will after their first-time incident where schedules slow or stop for the lack of that.

Project methodology in practice, should connect with, work effectively and smoothly with, and benefit from the systems and processes already in place, for managing the business’ already-present complex of problems. And I will add that with the one exception of limiting resources acquired specifically for a particular project that would not be used outside of its scope, when a project resource bottleneck arises or the distinct potential for that does, project resource access and scheduling is always operational resource and scheduling too. Think of this as a long winded and example-driven way of saying that projects take place in and have to work in a larger context. And from a job and career perspective that means cultivating the skills and experience and developing the networking connections and business relationships throughout the business to make this work – and enlisting the support of more senior managers as needed to facilitate that.

I am going to turn in my next series installment from the project manager’s perspective to that of their manager and the perspective of the business’ executive team. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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