“Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them towards a certain goal.” – Walt Disney
Project management is a huge responsibility in any context, and it has to be conducted effectively so that projects are completed both on time and on budget (or as near to the deadline and budget limit as possible). While the failure of some projects to meet these criteria can often be put down to external factors, they can often be put down to mismanagement of the project, or at least management that wasn’t as effective as might have been. In big projects such as the construction of the Hoover Dam or the excavation of the Panama Canal, for instance, ineffective project management can be disastrous.
Throughout the planning and work stages, you need to be constantly on the ball so you can ensure your own management of the project is as effective as possible. This involves utilising and displaying foresight, determination, analytical skills, teamwork and mental strength among other attributes to get the best out of yourself and others around you – although you’re the project manager, it’s always a collaborative effort.
Ensure you have a Plan B
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson
Although former heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson could never be classed as one of the great project managers, he has a point here. Everyone who steps into the ring with him has a plan until he hits them, and then they don’t have a Plan B. Project management is the same – unpredictable things can always derail a project, but the most effective project managers are able to anticipate them and say “If this happens and we can’t continue with Plan A then we go to Plan B.” Take the time to work out alternative scenarios and how you might deal with them.
Always factor in potential issues
“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Sir Winston Churchill
Similarly, it’s worse to spot a potential problem down the road and worry about it but not taking pre-emptive measures to either prevent it or resolve it if it occurs. That’s one way in which Winston Churchill was instrumental in helping Britain to win the Second World War, and it applies to you as well. You need to map out the entire project process and identify those potential problems, either changing the methods and techniques you are going to employ in order to prevent them from occurring, or coming up with ideas to stop them from derailing the project.
Collaborate, don’t dominate
“I always believe it’s better to have thirty imaginations working on a project, rather than one imagination telling the other twenty-nine what to do.” – Sir Trevor Nunn
As a multi-Olivier and Tony Award winning director and the man who has the final decision on pretty much everything he’s ever worked on, Trevor Nunn knows a thing or two about collaboration. While there is a certain amount of leadership required in project management (after all, you’re the project manager for a reason), it can be tempting to micro-manage and dominate the way the project is conducted rather than trusting in and asking the opinions of your team, all of whom should have enough experience to have their own ways of working effectively without needing massive levels of input from you. Work with the project team rather than trying to control them.
Maintain confidence in yourself
“Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
On the flip side, it’s important to maintain confidence in your own abilities and opinions and not to let everyone else push you around and tell you what to do. That said, you should know which battles you can win and which you can’t – if there are two conflicting opinions, as Eleanor Roosevelt advises, you can more easily overrule a junior member of the team than you can overrule somebody in a higher position than you, for example. However, if you’re convinced that your way is right, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong.
Darren Ley is an L&D Consultant at Thales Learning & Development. He began his career in research and development and project management, eventually making the natural switch to training and development with Thales, for whom he delivers accredited and non-accredited project management training.
Darren is a regular contributor to Enhance – The Magazine for Learning and Development.