Project Management — Am I doing it right?

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Picture this, you’re at brunch with your friends discussing the woes of adulting. And, after several rounds of mimosas, the whole table is tipsy and chatting excessively, and then out of nowhere, one of your friends with a mouth full of food and an almost empty glass, stands up and blurts out, “We need a vacation!” She then goes on a belligerent rant about the health benefits of vacationing and how it’s good to recharge and that it’ll be great for all of us to go and…blah blah blah. Everyone agrees and starts throwing out ideas, destinations, and dates. At this very moment, a project is created and it will require management and resources. Since your day job is a project manager, everyone nominates you to take the lead in planning. :(

What exactly is project management?

According to the PMI, project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

Translation: According to the rest of the world, project management is about using the resources available to you to get something done.

So if project management is that, then what is a project?

PMI defines a project as a temporary endeavor in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.

Translation: A project is a unique outcome (either tangible or intangible) that has a beginning and an end. For this vacation example, the vacation will start when you fly to your destination and it will end when you fly back home.

Project Phases

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Every task in managing a project falls within 1 of 5 phases (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing) Additionally, tasks also fall into a knowledge area (Integration, Scope, Schedule, Cost, Quality, Resources, Communication, Risk, Procurement, Stakeholders) which runs in parallel to a phase.

1.Initiating — this is where the project begins and you as the project manager partner with stakeholders to scope out the high-level objectives, benefits, costs, dates, stakeholders, risks etc…

Vacation example: Since you were nominated to be the project manager, you are in charge of gathering all of the information for the trip. What are the top destinations to travel? Who’s coming on the trip? When should we leave? When should we arrive? What the estimated cost range? Are there any weather warnings? There will be several questions that will require answers and it’s ok if you don’t have them all answered, it’s still the beginning. As you transition into different project phases, you will be hone in and make better decisions. Once you get a high-level idea of what this trip should be— you will move forward with planning.

2. Planning — is the longest phase and involves “all of the things”. I won’t go into much detail about this phase, but know that this is where you collect requirements, define the scope, activities and their order and duration, estimate costs, determine the budget, plan out resources, communication, quality, risks, procurement, and stakeholders. Throughout this phase and all phases, you will be the single point of contact and all communication will flow through you. You will spend 90% of your time communicating all the information about the project.

Vacation example: Now that you have a high-level idea of what people want out of the trip, you are now in full planning mode. Planning for the trip entails narrowing the options. What does that mean? During the Initiating phase, you were able to collect ideas on where everyone wanted to go. The three destinations were Jamaica, Spain, Greece. Now you must nail down the destination based on everyone’s specific requirements. After everyone’s wants and needs, Greece is deemed the number one pick.

Now that you know the destination, there are several things you have to figure out:

  • How many people are coming?
  • What hotel will you reside at for the duration of the trip?
  • What activities would you like to do while in Greece?
  • How long should each activity last?
  • How much is each activity going to cost?
  • What’s everyone budget?
  • Are we going to pay for everything up front or will we pay when we get there? Will we use Venmo or CashApp?
  • How are we going to split out the responsibilities for planning activities and transportation?
  • Will the volcano be active during our visit?
  • What are the ratings and reviews for the activities and hotels?

3. Executing — Now that you have some definitive answers, it’s now time to get sh#t done! This is one of the easier phases because it’s centered around managing the work to be done, ensuring quality, communicating any updates, managing resources, conducting procurements, etc.

Vacation example: You’re almost done and ready to pack your bags for Greece! Now it’s time to start focusing on executing on all of the open tasks like booking hotels, flights, and activities, gathering payments and getting the team excited. Wheels up!

4.Monitoring & Controlling — During this phase you are in charge of making sure that all executed tasks and requirements discussed with the stakeholders and/or business owners are done well and within the agreed upon timeframe. In addition, you are monitoring all risks, quality, resources, purchases, and communications for the project.

Vacation example: Now that you’re in Greece, you have transitioned to a new phase in the project, monitoring and controlling. Your job now is to monitor and control all the executing tasks. These task may include ensuring everyone checks into the right hotel and is in the right room based on what was agreed upon and ensuring that activities start on time and end on time based on the itinerary and that there are no additional fees or hidden costs associated with already executed transactions. Of course, there are more tasks the project manager will be in charge of monitoring and controlling, but I wanted to name a few.

5.Close —The last and final phase consists of concluded all activities across all project management process phases to formally complete the project.

Vacation example: Now that you and the gang are back home had a great time in Greece, everyone can’t stop raving about how well you managed the trip. You’re happy to hear this, but even more happy it’s over, but not so fast! You still have to close out any open items and ensure all purchases that were partially split on the trip are reconciled and resolved. Once you’ve balanced out the “IOUs” and all other open items, you can officially mark this vacation project as closed.

If you made it this far, I hope you were able to understand that projects are different and there’s no right or wrong to manage a project, because stakeholder and company needs will always vary. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a vacation, managing the building of a house, or creating a new product, the overall methodology will always be the same. The important thing to remember is to tailor the needs of the project to your stakeholders.