When you hear the term 'project manager,' what comes to mind? Perhaps you envision highly experienced professionals overseeing multi-million-dollar construction projects or driving progress in industries like IT, transportation, or energy. While it's true that project managers handle such grand endeavours, many of us might not realise that we are essentially project managers in our own right, even without the official title.
Before we delve into the world of project management, let's take a moment to understand what defines a project. Let's see what the experts in professional project management have to say.
According to PRINCE2® (one of the most globally recognised project management certifications), a project is defined as "A temporary organisation that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed business case."
It’s therefore fair to say that projects exist to achieve a particular purpose or goal and change the way things are done. These goals can take many forms, extending beyond tangible outcomes to include processes, software, websites, marketing campaigns, training programmes, office layouts, and much more.
For organisations to thrive and even survive in todays hectic ‘VUCA’ (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, they continuously need to reinvent themselves. Just think about some of the iconic names who failed to adapt and therefore no longer exist: Blockbusters, Polaroid, Toys R Us, Pan Am, Kodak and Dell to name a few.
In 2020, the US-based Project Management Institute, a US-based organisation, released its 'Pulse of the Profession' report, suggesting that we have entered the era of the 'project economy.' Organisations increasingly turn to projects to address their major issues. Some even argue that Chief Operating Officers (COOs) should be known as Chief Project Officers, or that entirely new board positions should be created to accommodate this shift. It is widely predicted that the demand for project managers will significantly increase in the coming decade, driven by the growth in AI and the need for effective project management.
Here's a list of their typical responsibilities:
- Understand what needs to be delivered (requirements) and why the project is essential (business/investment case).
- Create plans to achieve project goals (plans do not have to use complex software packages, they can be as simple as spreadsheets or handwritten notes).
- Assign work to team members or third-party organisations where necessary.
- Organise, lead, and motivate project teams.
- Monitor progress, collect data, update project plans, and report progress to stakeholders.
- Ensure products are delivered with the right quality, within timelines, and ideally within budget.
- Identify and manage risks that could impact the project's outcome.
- Handle any issues that arise, which could include changes to the requirements, and evaluating their impact on costs, timelines, and benefits.
- Facilitate the handover of completed products into operational use and disband the project team.
- Seek to learn valuable lessons which can be applied for future projects.
Many individuals without the formal title of project manager can relate to this list. Even if you haven't managed projects in your professional career, you've likely undertaken personal projects such as organising a major social event, planning a wedding, or overseeing significant home improvements. Project management is considered a unique skillset that can be applied across various industries.
Given the growing demand for project managers, organisations would be wise to harness and grow the ‘hidden’ project management talent they have. Look for individuals with the following qualities to train and nurture into becoming formally acknowledged project managers:
- Enthusiasm and resilience - project managers often need to stay resilient in the face of challenges.
- Strong communication skills - successful projects hinge on effective communication and diplomacy.
- Pragmatism and organisational skills - project planning techniques and software can be taught.
- Creativity and problem-solving abilities - projects involve change and often encounter roadblocks.
- Ability to prioritise tasks and pay attention to detail.
In conclusion, project management is a dynamic discipline that plays a crucial role in driving change and achieving goals. As the project economy continues to grow, organisations should recognise the untapped potential of project management talent within their ranks and invest in developing future project management leaders.
If you want to develop your own project management skills or the skills of those in your team, there are several courses which may be of interest to you.
‘Project management for non-project managers’ – as a high level introduction in a workshop environment (1 day course)
PRINCE2® accredited courses, such as the PRINCE2® Foundation or PRINCE2®7 Practitioner – or the combined version: PRINCE2® 7 Foundation and Practitioner – a detailed and proven step-by-step method, 7 best practice principles with qualifications at both foundation and practitioner level.
PRINCE2® accredited Agile courses, such as the PRINCE2® 7 Agile Foundation or PRINCE2® 7 Agile Practitioner – or the combined version: PRINCE2® 7 Foundation and Practitioner Certificates in Agile Project Management – in addition to the regular step-by-step method and principles, this is useful when requirements are not well understood or are susceptible to change.
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