Managing a project doesn’t have to be hard. Nor do you need a degree or a certificate to do so. All you need is an understanding of the process.
When it comes to the employment and hiring space within the project management field, it’s hard not to get discouraged when all you see is “this certification preferred or needed.” Especially if you don’t have such, however, make no mistake, you don’t need a degree or special certificate to run a well-oiled project.
Let’s get something out of the way before we dive into this. Getting a degree or certificate can be helpful if you’re in the corporate world; at the very least, it will help you relate to the conversations. That said, there are literally hundreds of books out there that can help you understand the jargon too.
I also want to get the definition of a project into your mind. Because I’m fairly certain you’ve done one or two already. The accepted “what is” of a project is:
- it has a definitive start date,
- you create/change something, and
- it has an estimated end date.
A project isn’t something that goes on and on. Does this sound like something you’ve done?
When it comes time for you to run a project, remember this; confidence projects success. It’s not an automatic win, but confidence in yourself can move you in the right direction. You don’t have to be a super talkative person either, but when you speak or act on behalf of your project, you need to sound like you know what you’re talking about. So, let’s discuss that.
Once you’ve been given the task of running a project, there are a few things you need/need to do to ensure success (we’re not getting technical).
- Figure out who you're working for or who’s making the final decision on the deliverables. This person is often called the sponsor.
- Once you’ve figured out the who, next is the what. It would help if you had clear guidance and an understanding of the expectation(s). If you don’t know what’s expected, how can you finish the project?
- You also need to keep track of what’s called stakeholders. In short, these are the people who have a vested interest in the outcome of the project. Depending on the complexity of said project, your stakeholders could range from just your team and perhaps a manager or two to several dozen people or groups. Of course, making them all happy is the goal, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way.
Now that we’ve got the opening ceremony completed, it’s time to do the work.
This process isn’t as hard as the books say it can be, so long as you’re able to keep track of what’s happening. Let’s use a small example to illustrate the idea here. Our boss wants a new shed built behind the storefront with running water for a sink, electricity for a light, a computer, and air conditioning, and it needs to be level.
Here’s where no amount of degree or certification can help; it’s all common sense. You very well can’t put the air conditioner in until you have a structure, nor a structure until you have a pad/floor. That’s said, let’s project manage this.
Here’s a quick diagram that illustrates what’s called a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). In short, you try to think of every little thing it will take to make the project happen, from the type of air conditioning to the type of lumber for the floor joists. It’s also where your team comes in to provide answers or experience. If nobody on the team knows how to build, it’s time to call in a contractor to join your project team.
Once you’ve figured out what comes first, middle, and last it’s time to set the project to paper. This is where you’re going to write everything down. No special software is needed. From top to bottom, we want to let our sponsor and stakeholders know what we are planning to do, when we plan to do it, and if known, how much it’s going to cost. It might look something like this:
— START —
Summary: This is the plan to build the requested small building; it will take approximately XX days and cost approximately $XXXXX.XX. We expect to break ground on September 28th, 2021, and be finished near October 15th, 2021.
Phase One: Permitting and Contracting
- Contact the city and county for permitting (assigned to John);
- Call Larry at Discount Concrete to get an estimate on the foundation (assigned to Lisa)
- Contact Sam Jam for lumber options (assigned to Buzz)
As you read through this, it won’t be very hard. The thing you’ll have to remember is to plug the information you get back after calling people. This will be added to your plan to get the whole picture. Then, you can present the findings and any updates (cost/time/etc.) to the sponsor and stakeholders.
It’s really just a loop. Do some, fill in the blanks, present. Do some(more), fill in the blanks, present.
Once the plan is approved and you get the shed built, you're done (for all intents and purposes). First, however, I suggest you meet with your “sponsor,” to see what went well and what could have been better. This is what we call lessons learned. The idea is to take the good, bad, and ugly and apply them to the next project.
That’s all there is to it, really. You may not have even known it, but you undertook the five major elements of a project: creation, planning, execution, monitoring, and completion. All of this, and we didn’t even need to bust out a jargon-filled book with charts and the likes. If you’re going to do a project for work, you may as well do it right.