The Zen of Project Management for Beginners
Nothing gets done till nothing gets done.
Say you’re working in higher-ed and facing a project that is about to bring you to tears before it’s even started. Say you’re not even a project manager but, you know, the projects won’t manage themselves. Sounds familiar?
We would like to save you from the misery by giving some basic (and universally applicable) wisdom tips on how to become a project superhero.
More haste, less speed.
This one’s easy. Project management always means structure. The more chaos you are allowing in, the lower your chances are to succeed. And vice versa – if you get hold of every possible aspect, there’s nothing there to interfere with you Zen.
Forewarned is forearmed.
You may think that careful planning is what it takes. You spend long hours looking at every aspect of your project, which can become quite exhausting considering how big education projects can get and how much responsibility is involved. However, it may be the thing that’s not helping you at all.
Here’s what I mean: The project never actually starts with its start date. The most important part of your preparation and planning should start long before you’ve already assigned people with tasks and calculated your expenses.
A stitch in time saves nine: Ask your ‘why’s’.
The ultimate goal of each project is making all the stakeholders happy, which is clear.
But have you ever wondered why some people are happy, and others aren’t?
It’s because the happy ones know what they want.
As the brilliant Simon Sinek says, everything should start with why. It’s vitally important to get a very clear vision of WHY this project is undertaken, and to collect every single detail, be it requirements, critical success factors, deadlines, budgets, etc.
Every project should begin with a stakeholders meeting. The questions to put on the agenda are ‘Why are we starting this project? What exactly do we want to change/achieve?’.
Clearly, the number of people you are accountable to can be enough to make you lose sleep (think parents, students, sponsors, etc.). That’s why you have to be prepared with the right ‘demands’. Be sure to note each requirement down and keep them all in one place, so that they are always available in case of any misunderstanding or conflict.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The step I am talking about is absurdly small. Despite its size, taking it usually requires quite an effort.
You would expect me to just be recommending you to take some action, and you would be not wrong, but also not completely right. The above mentioned step is quite a particular action.
If you take the top 5 request from students to professors, somewhere behind ‘no homework’ and ‘no exams’ you will find ‘I wish he/she could just admit they are wrong’. You see, there is nothing wrong in being wrong, but there are not that many people I know who are confident enough to actually admit it when they are wrong and face it with boldness.
Your attitude is what matters. If you are not confident enough, people will feel it. If something is going out of control and you are stealthily trying to hide it, they will know. That is precisely why there is no use in trying to hide your ignorance 🙂
Ultimately, people will respect you much more for being brave enough to admit your faults at the very beginning then for the actual fault for the project going off budget.
So if you are facing some difficulties, don’t you ever be afraid to simply ask for help.
A miss is as good as a mile.
DON’T RUSH AWAY EUPHORICALLY. There is no use in making mistakes if you don’t learn from them. Remember that not analyzing your mistakes will cost you a lot of time (when you make them all over again), and it’s plain stupid. Hold a meeting and discuss the things that worked, the things that went wrong, the moments when something could have been done differently – ‘What could we have done better?’ is the question you are looking for, so that when you start again, you start from the very best version of yourself and your team.