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Project Management - Building a Successful Career

Updated on April 14, 2015

Project Management - Keep It Simple

Project management can be extremely complicated, but it needn't be. And it is beneficial for us all to simplify our processes from time to time. Here we look at how to do this.

Project management, as anyone who has watched The Apprentice knows, is one of the most difficult professions there are. In fact plenty who do the job would have probably loved to have Alan Sugars finger pointed at them in the boardroom from time to time, just to give them a breather from the stress!

As a project manager, you have the ultimate responsibility for the project’s planning, the allocation of tasks and resources, the coordination of the efforts of everyone involved - and ultimately, the responsibility for its ultimate success or failure.

Simplifying the process is a really good way to boost your projects chances for success.

And fortunately, the processes involved can be simplified greatly. Numerous project management training courses teach a simple approach to project management. It is usually those doing the job who complicate the process without being aware they are doing so.

Here we look at the book Simple Project Management by Brian C Christensen and the approaches he suggests to simplifying project management.

Christensen defines simple project management as the use of approaches and techniques that have worked well in the past. The construction of a project management framework based on the “tried and true.” He has formulated twelve categories, subdividing them into sixty distinct responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities are:

  • Defining exactly what will be delivered to the client, in accordance with the contract.
  • Figuring out what risks are involved and how they will be handled.
  • Seeing to it that the value of the project to be undertaken is enough to justify its cost.
  • Dividing the project into distinct steps, assigning each one to a specific team member and scheduling each of them to give the proper amount of time needed to complete them properly.
  • Managing communications with all of the team members - with the project manager himself, with stakeholders, clients and senior management.

Each and every one of these steps is essential for all areas of project management, though many professionals, if asked, would not list nearly so many. This may not be as unfortunate as it sounds, however, as many project managers simply group the elements together in different ways. Christensen's book devotes an approximately equal portion to each responsibility a single page each.

So although simplifying processes you have used time and time again may in fact add complexity to the way you work in the short term, in the long term, there is so much to be gained. Strip back the way you currently work, think about what is truly necessary to get the job done and make that the base for your key project management framework.

If you think you need to do a bit more learning to get your core structures on top form - book yourself into some project management training courses and build your skillset. A project manager should always be seeking to improve the way he works in order to adapt to his new teams, new projects and the ever changing world of project management.

Remote Project Management - Useful Tips

Working on your project management framework may well be challenging if the team you’re working with is beyond physical reach. Here we look at managing this problem effectively.

Working on your project management framework may well be challenging if the team you’re working with is beyond physical reach. These days geographical impairment is only seen as a problem if you make it your problem. This is because it is commonplace in today's workplace. With the growing efficiency of technology via the internet, remote project management should, in essence, be quite easy. But that's not always the case, which is why it's best to be as informed as possible about this way of working - because it's going to be happening more and more often in the future. Project management courses give you a good base of information to work from within your project, they can't really help you deal with this particular issue.

Here are some tips to help you effectively manage your remote project team:

Get To Know Everyone

Learn who you are working with. If you are new to the team or you have new team members, you have get to know everyone properly before any project planning begins. Professionally building a strong working relationship is not only an advantage but an absolute must in Distance Project Management (DPM). You have to know which team members excel in certain areas and which team members are weak in other areas. By taking the time to get to know those you are working with, they not only learn to trust you and like you, but you learn who will be best suited to various tasks within your project - making it much more likely to succeed.

Communicate

Time differences often present a real problem when you are working remotely. In order to avoid this you have to set a common time for communication because a breakdown in communication is almost guaranteed to make your project fail. You have to set a stable information exchange, especially in dealing with extreme time zone differences. Comprehensive, well-established and regular communication is the key to keeping your project flowing.

Applications are developed to provide virtual project management courses and project management organisation tools. Two leading project management organisation apps are Basecamp and Codebase. They are perfect professional chat tools that enable you and your team to keep track of the project, what still needs to be done, which milestones have been reached and who has been given a particular task (to name just a few features). Apps like these promote open communication, and keep a log of everything as it progresses, which is much more efficient than a shared email - and less confusing.

Set your limits

Be transparent with your team. Let them know what you can and cannot do and where the project stands in relation to the timeframe. If the project has fallen behind, make sure team members and stakeholders know about it - never make false reports which, in the end, will compromise your entire team. Setting your limits is beneficial, this way each and every member of the team will be able to keep track of each others progress and even give out a helping hand when a task is behind schedule (with your direction of course). This way, you will be able to handle your team’s deliverables properly. And you will also be able to set clear and achievable goals for your team.

A Promise is a Promise

If you decide to outsource a professional, make sure you fulfill your promise to them - that is, paying them on time. If you are working with your team online, always fulfill every task you told them you said you would complete. If you promised them a bonus if the job is done before the deadline, give it to them! If you promised to do someone else’s part of a task, get that work done! Delivering every promise will not only ensure you only ever give promises you can keep, but it will ensure those you work with know you are trustworthy.

Accomplish

Always stick to your set objectives and if possible, deliver something beyond exceptional. Use tools and methodologies that fit your objective goal and never incorporate a project management framework that doesn't suit your tasks. Work on things that can be achieved and then push for more.

Refine

If you have time to fine tune your work, do it, just make sure you still stick to the deadline. And remember, fine-tuning doesn’t just involve projects or results but also the people who worked to get it to this stage. This is the point where you will make assessments on the tasks completed, who did their tasks well, who didn’t and what needs improving next time. Just because your team is remote, doesn't mean they should get any less of an appraisal than if they were in an office with you. Where possible, use video chat for appraisals so that you can tell the team member to their face exactly how well they did.

The Top 7 Project Management Books

There are lots of different project management books available, which is why it can be so confusing choosing one. Here we look at 7 of the best and why they might be right to help you grow your experience and develop your career as a project manager.

Project Management deals not just with the end result of a project, but also with the means of getting there. And because of the broad range of approaches and methodologies involved with project management, there are naturally plenty of books on the subject available to purchase. However, although there are plenty of books on project management out there, finding the right book can be difficult - because there are so many to choose from.

If you have recently done project management courses on a specific methodology, that should narrow your search for the right book somewhat. However, if you're simply looking for some good books to boost your project management knowledge, we've got a selection of the best for you to choose from, and how those books could benefit you.

For Beginners

1. A Guide To The Project Management Body Of Knowledge - by The Project Management Institute

If theoretical and philosophical approaches on projects would suit your taste, this is a book directly from a group of practitioners who wrote about their expertise. It's not a book on jump starting a career in project management. But if that is what you’re looking for then it could be worth going back to the fundamentals of the job to give yourself a good base knowledge before you progress. This book redefines basics by adding FUN to fundamentals.

2. Project Management Absolute Beginner’s Guide (Third Edition) by Gregory Horine, PMP

With over 20 years of experience, Horine's third edition on the project management cycle processes guides you through being in control as a newbie in the business. It focuses on dealing with three main processes: planning, control and execution of the project. A really good core knowledge book for beginners.

3. Project Management JumpStart (Third Edition) by Kim Heldman

Beginning a career in project management is made easy with this book, which focuses on simplifying PM basics. It's a book that goes through the entire project process - from brainstorming project at planning stage all the way through to project completion. What's great about this book is that it includes lots of useful resources, including sample forms and checklists. This book contains a lot of practical advice and would be ideal for someone who is considering a career in project management, who wants a book to refer to after project management training, or who wants a little extra help while they undertake their very first project.

For Those In The Job

1. Project Management Lite: Just Enough to Get the Job Done…Nothing More by Juana Clark Craig, PMP

This all around book for any type of readership is a book that gives a step-by-step guide for project management practitioners. Craig talks about project management in layman’s terms with worksheets and checklists for project implementation. It's a book that could well aid someone who feels they have lost their defining way of working, who perhaps needs to strip back their processes and go back to basics.

2. The Lazy Project Manager: How to Be Twice As Productive and Still Leave the Office Early by Peter Taylor

Being a project management practitioner for 30 years, Peter Taylor writes about effective ways of getting more tasks done but whilst exerting less effort. This is the the Four Hour Work Week for project managers. Excellent if you need guidance with your time management.

3. The Plugged-In Manager: Get in Tune with Your People, Technology, and Organization to Thrive by Terri L. Griffith

This book offers three different working dimensions. Terry L. Griffith is a management professor and technology expert giving insight into properly incorporating technology and work management philosophies. This is the perfect book for the project managers of the future, those who want to be at the forefront of the new ways of working in project management. Technology plays a huge part in the book, and quite rightly so, it's going to shape the future of project management. Get this if you don't want to be left behind with the times.

4. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun

If you are looking for a book that is straight to the point and easy to understand, grab this one. Scott Berkun is a modern writer as well as a project management expert. This book is ideal for project managers who want to know how to get the job done. Project management training courses won't necessarily give you tips on being assertive, but this book will.

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