Believe it or not, over the years I’ve gotten more requests to provide Project Management training to non project managers than project managers. That may seem counter intuitive but not really. Organizations realize the benefits of those project management skills and abilities, and they need everyone to have that skill set, not just their official “project managers.” While most professionals may not carry the formal title “Project Manager,” virtually everyone manages projects from time to time. If you’ve organized a kid’s birthday party, coordinated a family reunion or planned a team retreat, you’ve managed a project!
Director, Strategy and Project Management with Medtronic Corporate Science & Technology, Dr. Michael O’Connor insists, “People don’t realize how much project management they’re already doing. In many ways the skills are the same ones moms have been using for centuries!” According to Michael DePrisco, Vice President Global Solutions, Project Management Institute (PMI) research shows that, “We’re moving to a project economy. It’s just becoming how work gets done.” Further support for the view of project management skills being universally applicable and beneficial is the fact that PMI established an Educational Foundation targeting kids aged 5-19. Indeed, the foundation helps equip children with project management skills because the fundamental belief is…project management skills are life skills.
Project Management books are filled with concepts and skills that could benefit most professionals including scheduling techniques, Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, team leadership concepts, etc. While these skills (and many others) are certainly valuable ones for non project managers to understand, this article highlights four specific skills that may be lesser known but can provide tremendous benefit for virtually everyone in the workplace.
Skill #1 – Using Project Charters
The discipline of project management is filled with tools, techniques and templates, but hands down the most powerful one overall may be the project charter. Many organizations struggle with the disease of “the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing” or they have teams that fumble key initiatives in large part because people “aren’t on the same page.” Project Charters are used by project managers to get everyone in agreement at the outset so they can avoid problems down the road. Here’s an example of some of the types of elements you may want to clarify through the development of a project charter before the work actually begins.MORE FOR YOUFirst Time Managing A Big Project? Steer Clear Of These 5 Tragic Mistakes5 Project Management Rules To Do Business By
While project charters may vary in style, format, and even content, the fundamental premise of getting the key players together to reach consensus on these critical elements before project kickoff is invaluable. Securing signatures on the document only enhances the levels of accountability.
Skill #2 – Vetting Ideas to Weed Out the Bad Ones
Years ago when the ill-fated OJ Simpson book project “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer” was cancelled at the last minute amid public outrage and advertiser backlash, Rupert Murdoch Chairman of the News Corporation offered a statement where he announced the book cancellation characterizing it as “an ill-considered project.” While the book had reportedly already been written and copies had been boxed for retailers to sell, this seemed a perfect example of the common and pervasive phenomenon – failure to properly vet a project idea.
To avoid this phenomenon, project management teaches that contrary to popular belief “Initiating” NOT “Planning” should be the first phase of project management. The Initiating phase is focused on subjecting the idea to some level of scrutiny whether it’s as complex as a full-blown business case or as simple as a back of the envelope review of pros and cons. When this up front analysis doesn’t happen, “dog projects” can be birthed from dangerous triggers like an executive’s rambling commentary during a meeting, an ill-advised or uninformed opinion or an emotional response to an incident. While the Initiating process can take many forms, here are some key questions to consider as part of that process.
Skill #3 – Conducting Risk Analysis
While plans are great, everyone knows that they rarely materialize exactly as anticipated. Stuff happens, right? Instead of being blindsided by every unexpected twist and turn, project managers are taught to conduct risk analysis as part of the normal project planning process. Harry Hall, The Project Risk Coach insists “we are all risk managers, some better than others.” At its core risk analysis is about planning for what might go wrong, and blindly executing projects without taking time to conduct some level of risk analysis is naïve if not outright dangerous. The unfortunate reality is that organizations do it all the time! They barrel forward just hoping for the best and usually just pay the price later.
The selection of risk analysis method isn’t nearly as important as taking action based on the findings. Remember that risk analysis findings can be used to…
· Help deliver a difficult message to a senior leader or stakeholder
· Make the case for additional resources, support or even a different course of action
· Minimize team anxiety about “what could go wrong”
· Provide opportunities to avoid/minimize risks through proactive mitigation and backup planning for key tasks
Skill #4 – Debriefing Projects
Insanity has famously been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It sounds crazy, but most organizations engage in it all the time. Why? Because once a project or task is over, invariably there’s a mad dash to get started on the next one without taking a moment to consider potential future changes. Indeed, that reflexive response often robs us of the opportunity to use what we learned on the last project to enhance future projects. While some environments like hospitals and the military who deal in life and death on a daily basis reportedly include debriefing (or post mortem type activities) as a part of their normal course of work, many others overlook it which is a huge missed opportunity. Debriefing can be applied to meetings, key events, projects and even tasks. The goal is simply to take some time at the end (or even along the way for longer projects) to reflect on what worked well and what could have been done differently. Understanding the errors (or successes) of the past is a necessary element of continuous improvement, and professionals who are skilled in this practice enhance their value to the organization.
If you typically don’t consider project management courses in your training plan development, you might be making a huge mistake. More and more, project management is becoming everyone’s lane even more so as the demand for project management skills continues to grow. PMI’s “Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017– 2027” reports that by 2027 employers will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management oriented roles while there remains a notable shortage of qualified talent. To this end PMI developed an online learning platform PM Edge targeted to non-specialists to help demystify the discipline of project management.
While these four skills aren’t exclusive to project management, they’re widely recognized and practiced within the discipline and unfortunately overlooked by many outside the discipline. So, if you’ve been thinking project management skills are just for career project managers, think again! Project management skills may not just enhance your effectiveness in the workplace, but they can also significantly increase your value in the marketplace,
To learn more on this topic, keep an eye out for my next article Project Management Trends on the Horizon.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Project Management Institute.