Profiles in Project Management Excellence
When it comes to excellent project management, the applicable traits transcend industries — what is good for IT also is good for other facets of business. Essentially, it boils down to having a clear vision of what must be accomplished, thereby establishing a solid foundation for the ensuing project.
The keywords are realistic, relevant and flexible, said Teri McNamara, partner at Authenticity Consulting, a firm that specializes in strengthening organizations through capacity building and through strengthening individuals.
It is also important not to set your sights too high, she said — project management isn’t necessarily the best place to dream big.
“One of the keys is being realistic, so that if a plan is laid out, it includes input from the right players so that the plan is actually based on something that needs to be done,” McNamara said.
Authenticity Consulting also uses project management to help organizations achieve their goals through action learning.
“We do project management ourselves within that, and part of the approach we take in the strategic planning is really helping an organization manage their strategic planning,” McNamara said. “It’s like a project plan — you lay out a plan, you frame responsibilities, you assign timelines and then you follow up.”
Therein lies the second crucial aspect of excellent project management, she said.
“First, there’s being realistic, and secondly is follow-up, continuing to use your plan as a way of monitoring what is going on,” McNamara said. “And you modify the plan if you need to, so flexibility is another piece of it. If you aren’t using the plan to follow up, you won’t know if you’re really succeeding with the project or when you’re actually getting yourself into trouble.”
If an organization is not experiencing excellent project management, or if an individual feels his or her project management skills need a boost, McNamara said there are things that can be done. An integral aspect of this is: There is strength in numbers.
“One of the ways to improve project management skills is to use the strengths of the whole team,” she said. “When an individual project manager is having difficulty, rely on the whole team to help learn how to do it better. There are individuals who have strength in the individual pieces.
“Whether it’s conflict resolution or tracking the details or negotiations or trade-offs, there are different things you have to do as you go through a project, so you should use the team, and recognize the strengths of the team.”
McNamara said tools also are important to improve less-than-excellent project management.
“I don’t mean tools in terms of a particular software package but in how you can use group processes to help you effectively manage a team, how you can use scheduling tools or plans to help you manage a project,” she said. “That’s one of the things I know from my IT project management background that we often focused on, especially in those two areas: How you make better use of your team and the strengths that were already there to build yourself as a project manager and secondly, how to use tools, in a non-brand name sense.”
Further, McNamara said an individual should not have to spearhead an improvement campaign in regard to project management. It’s important to have management-level encouragement.
“Having the culture of the organization support the effort is always helpful, whet