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How to Develop a Project Management Program that Really Works

Updated on April 17, 2013

Effective Project Management Adheres to a Cycle

Do You Need a Project Management Program?

As your company grows, the need for effective project management grows as well. Running a successful business typically requires delving into various operations, including sales, production, billing and customer service. Without a project management program that addresses the needs of each operation and oversees its efficiency, you could be selling your business short. Although you can hire a certified or degreed project manager, he or she won’t always know the intricacies of your particular business and conflict between business owners and new project managers is a recipe for disaster.

More business owners are turning inward and developing their own project management programs that focus not only on coordinating operations, but also focus on the individual needs of their company to enhance the working environment.

Do I Need a Project Management Infrastructure?

A project management infrastructure is a set of processes and tools, designed to enhance the implementation of multifaceted program. Even small companies can benefit from the development of an infrastructure that separates the operational areas of the company from the planning and goal-oriented areas of the company. The two categories are planning and execution, and together they form the umbrella known as the infrastructure.

The infrastructure determines how progress is tracked reported and how communications will be handled. Don’t focus solely on project size when deciding whether to implement a project management infrastructure.

What is project management?

The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation defines good project management as being able to “…understand the fundamental nature of a project; the core characteristics of project management processes; how success is evaluated, the roles, responsibilities, and activities of a project manager and the expertise required; and the context in which projects are performed.”

Successful project management identifies the core internal and external aspects of the company and evaluates how each aspect influences the rest of the company. Project managers that handle individual projects must be able to look outside their immediate area of concern and be able to integrate their project into the overall company operations.

People Skills are Essential

Select a project manager with care.
Select a project manager with care.

What are the Desired Skills of a Project Manager?

A project manager has to be flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen events but focused enough to keep the project on track, despite interruptions. This requires the ability to interact and communicate effectively with other project managers in the company.

Obviously, team members who know the ins and out of the business are essential, but dedication to the success of the business is even more important. The potential project manager should demonstrate a high level of commitment to the company. The person should think quickly on his or her feet and should be able to communicate needs without coming across as barking orders. The ability to motivate workers is a skill many project managers never master, but it creates a level of respect that far outweighs getting the workers to produce through intimidation or “pulling rank.”

When you’re analyzing the potential skills of a project manager, it’s also important to look for signs of fickleness. If an employee or supervisor plays favorites or has a tendency to talk behind others backs, it can create a whole new set of internal problems. Drama in the workplace can quickly undermine the most dedicated project manager. Pass on the drama queens no matter how much they love the company, or you’ll find yourself embroiled in fiasco after fiasco.

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Offer an In-service Course in Project Management

After selecting the people that you feel possess the best skills for success as project managers, you can develop your own project management program by offering an in-service course. Numerous books and online management training services can help you settle on a curriculum, but a good course in project management will accomplish the following:

  • Define the project manager’s role as a leader and facilitator
  • Teaching the managers how to respond in a non-confrontational manner
  • Establish the credibility of the project manager
  • Assign areas of professional domain to each manager
  • Create a centralized management plan
  • Develop an information distribution system to managers
  • Integrate various company operations and identify need vs. operational segment
  • Build a relationship between managers based on professionalism and respect
  • Define a method of communication between managers and sponsors
  • Identify gaps in management and devise ways to bridge these gaps
  • Identify current stumbling blocks and brainstorm solutions
  • Decide the level of decision-making authority given to each manager
  • Implement an “emergency” plan where managers of gear their projects to take up slack for a faltering project
  • Identify the business dynamic and focus on the most important tasks and goals
  • Develop a strategy for project reporting between managers for across-the-board efficiency
  • Institute a method by which to evaluate project efficiency

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Dealing with Mistakes

All plans go awry to some extent, but a successful project management plan will have a safety net already in place to address these mistakes and turn them around.

Adapt a “lessons learned” strategy method of dealing with errors. Project managers must exhibit the flexibility to turn lemons into lemonade. Understand that the best way to prevent costly errors is to train workers efficiently. When a worker is uncertain about his or her role, mistakes don’t just happen – they’re inevitable. Part of the project manager’s role is to identify areas of weakness and follow mistakes with increased training in order to prevent a repeat.

While you want your project managers to be forward-looking as a rule, they must also possess the ability to look back and see where errors occurred.

Scheduling weekly manager meetings, often at the end of the workweek, to go over mistakes and brainstorm solutions often works well. It gives the managers time to mull over the issues when they’re away from the office over the weekend in a relaxed manner.

A short start-the-week meeting often provides numerous good solutions for dealing with the problems addressed the week before. Using this method, the managers allow the ideas to “incubate,” and the result is often positive.


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    • Michael VO profile image

      Michael VO 5 years ago from Warrenton Missouri

      I have heard many large organizations speak of management as a totally transferable discipline, in other words, if one can manage this then one can manage that, or so they believe. I like that you pointed out the knowledge factor.