What Project Management Is Really About

Project Management definition

People new to project management are often confused about what project management is.

The definition of project management often won’t help as there are lots of definitions out there.

You may think it is about those things they heard ‘Scope, Schedule & Budget’ and yet they are the more formal side of project management and not the key to successfully managing. In order to be a great project manager, you need to be good with people. Why? Your role is to manage people to get the best possible outcome for the business.

project management definitionThere are lots of things that ‘Project Managers’ do that don’t help or support project success. Here are just 5 ways to not manage a project to show you what I mean.

Being a Project Manager should mean that you have lots of support and be able to dictate what happens. That’s not usually the case either. Project Managers often don’t get the full support that they need and so can struggle and find the job very stressful.  I’m not trying to put you off being a Project Manager, just telling it like it is.

The skills you will need

So let’s look at what it takes to manage a project:

These are the core skills that you are going to need

  • be an organiser, someone who can plan and get things in order
  • someone able to deal with the ups and downs of things occurring, and find ways to smooth out the path
  • to take responsibility for everything that’s occurring, or going to occur in order for delivery to happen smoothly
  • have communication, liaison, negotiation skills in order to succeed in achieving
  • ‘be able to cope’ – dealing with stress when there are tight time frames is important. Being constantly under pressure to ensure that delivery occurs on time – how can and do you ‘manage’ that?
  • to have the respect and buy-in from the other team members of the project so that you can control any situation that arises?  Project Managers must gain respect and buy-in. It is an important aspect of successful delivery.

And in order to not make the mistakes that will make your job as a Project Manager harder, you may want to check out this list of 5 killer mistakes Project Managers tend to make. This list contains some of the main things that I see lead to project failure.

working with people

Why people management is the most important aspect

The formal project management training focuses on the technical aspects of project management a lot. And whilst it talks about the people or leadership side of it, often it doesn’t provide you with the information or knowledge about HOW to do this. Especially if these are skills that you haven’t yet got.

Remember that first and foremost your job is to manage a team of people, to deliver the desired outcome. If people don’t do what is needed in a timely manner, it’s your job to change that. There are lots of reasons why some people won’t deliver for you and your job is to work out WHY they aren’t delivering and give them the support needed to turn that around.

Once you put on your Project Managers hat you might become so focused on your role that you forget you are a person to. A person with needs and wants. You might forget that it is imperative that you have a work/life balance. Something that is not always easy to achieve when you are managing a very large project with a critical deadline.

Stakeholder management is an important task

Your project stakeholders are also people you need to be able to manage. They will be Senior Executives, people from operations often referred to as SME’s or Subject Matter Experts, technical experts, literally anyone that has an impact from the outcome of your project. Often key stakeholders are not engaged and this can lead to problems.

So, remember to engage your stakeholders and be clear with them about your project and it’s objectives. That way you won’t confuse the people in the business. Not doing this will certainly aid your project’s success.

What skills are you missing?

So you have embarked on this role of being a Project Manager and here I’ve said that people management is the most important aspect. Do you have the right skill set to manage people?  Here I would focus on negotiation, facilitation, and conflict management for example. What would you do to manage a team member that was being difficult? You may find value in filling out the SWOT Analysis template to show you the competencies that you may need to work on.

It’s a free resource that will help you see where your Strengths and Weaknesses are. You’ll also get to identify where there are Opportunities to improve your skills and any Threats that exist to you doing your job in the best possible way.

What I’ve noticed in my many years working as a Project Manager is that the success or failure of a project is relative to the PM’s skill level. And I don’t necessarily mean in the technical aspects of project management. It’s their level of people management skills that makes or breaks project success.

Do you have a lot of technical skills?

Have you come from a technical background into the role of PM? You aren’t going to like what I’m about to say, but in my experience techies don’t make good PM’s. Why do I say that?  In my experience, technical people are very knowledgeable about the technology or knowledge area they have worked in.  This can lead to what I call ‘tunnel vision.’  Not being able to see things from a different perspective. And I know that I am generalising here, so forgive me.

You may also hate me for saying that you may just be an ego-driven PM where everything is about you and your reputation rather than the desired successful outcome of the project.  Believe me, I’ve seen quite a few PM’s that operate this way and most of the time their projects fail. Why? Because they aren’t focused on the team and the work being done by the people in the team. Simple really!

Resources for you

Here are a number of resources looking at all the different aspects of being a Project Manager that may help you in some way. And don’t forget to subscribe to my weekly podcast. Each week I cover a different topic that may be of value to you.