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What they are not telling you about Project Management


Bill BakerThere is a wealth of material that has been written about Project Management methodologies.  There are also a number of well-known qualifications in project management that provide structured approaches that can be followed by project managers.  This is all well and good, however structured methodologies only get you so far.  The expertise comes from having the real-life experience of knowing how to use the methodologies in different situations with different people. This is why you don’t become a good project manager the day after you pass your Prince2 exam.

The key skill of a project manager is people management.  Invariably a project cuts across multiple departments and levels within an organization.  The project manager needs to divide up the work, assign it to different team members and track progress.  In a textbook this can appear straight forward, but there can be huge challenges when applying the techniques in real-life.  Different people need to be managed in different ways and this can also evolve over time. People have different filters on how they see life so often the same message needs to be presented differently depending on the audience and context.

You must manage your key stakeholders or you will fail. Know how they should be engaged so they are kept informed in an appropriate manner.  This is a fine art because each stakeholder may need to be communicated with differently.

Another classic challenge on projects is that people involved can have different priorities or agendas and often this means that project activities are not focused on.  At such times, the project manager needs to use a mixture of tact, persuasiveness and persistence to move the project forward.

To be clear, I think that methodologies do have useful role to play.  However you follow a methodology in a mechanical fashion at your peril.  Successful Project Managers show flexibility, good judgement and exceptional people skills.

Why don't you take a look at our white paper on how to avoid failing at project management?