Project Management For Children
Project Management For Children
Children can learn how to be project managers. In fact, there is a natural tendency for some children to lead projects even at an early age. Teachers recognize this in some of their students. Parents see it with their children at home and on the playground. Some people see it as a child being bossy, but are they really? When a child is a natural project leader, it will seem that they are bossy but perhaps they are just trying to express the importance of the activity to children who don't share the same passion. This is exactly what many adult project managers are unfortunate to experience in the jobs.
If we are able to recognize the emerging project manager, then we can assist the child to develop their skill. Children can be project managers with encouragement. Too often they may be met with resistance from their peers and decide to shelve their leadership talents. This is a shame. Project management is an important skill. The world will always need project managers. Learning some basic project management skills at the earliest age can pay huge dividends as a child grows up. Perhaps a natural project manager child will eventually become an important political leader. Parents and teachers can help make it happen.
Children in schools often work on projects. Both individually and in groups, they get experience in the standard tasks involved in formal project efforts. Initiation, planning, controlling, etc, are important for school training work as they are in large, professional jobs. The difference is scope, or the amount of work to be done.
Make Project Management Fun
It shouldn't be a punishment
Children can be taught to enjoy project management. When a project is assigned in school, there can be a feeling of dread when the leader is appointed. This is unfortunate. When a project is interesting to a child, that child will make an excellent project manager for it. The parent or teacher should try to find topics that will match each child's interest. When the match is made, the child will likely excel at the project management role. With success, the child could even look forward to the next opportunity to lead a project. We should remember that children with little project experience have not had many failures nor successes. They should be encouraged to develop project success, obviously. Some basic project management will help them. Even if you are not a formally trained project manager, you can help the child project manager lead their project.
Teach Children About Project Scope
Perhaps the most important lesson
Children who lead projects may take on too much work. This is somewhat natural. The natural leader will want to do a great job. They may equate this to a gigantic project effort. Parents and teachers should act as project sponsors and help the child narrow the project into a list of accomplishments that can be successfully achieved. This is called "Scope Definition" in the formal project management world. If the project is to make a particular class display, point out to the project manager that a great job can be completed with available resources. If the child wants to bring in a lot of objects from home, that may take a lot of time and cause significant delays. It's better to reduce the work for the project team. The child can be told that their desire to expand the project scope might be an exercise for subsequent projects. Any child will understand this view.
Teach Children About Project Schedule
Another important lesson
Time doesn't mean a lot to children. They don't get paid to lead their projects. They often are given extensions for class exercises. They know that they can complete more if the deadline is moved. Project schedules are often fixed, rigid and unforgiving in business. We obviously don't want children to stress about a class project schedule, but we should emphasize the importance of deadlines. Perhaps the project schedule has a natural deadline, like an upcoming school science fair date. That is a hard deadline that must be met. If the class project managers have no experience with such fixed deadlines, they may have a hard time meeting them. As was earlier explained, a big key to the success is with scope determination. With the scope restricted to a set of tasks that can be accomplished, then the project schedule will have a better chance of being met.
From an early age, children learn about working in teams. Many school activities, even for young children, require participation in teams. Children learn to accept certain realities from these situations.
First, they will find that some team members do little, if any, work. Despite urging from others, some just seem unwilling, or unable, to contribute.
Next, some children want to be in charge. They will boss the others. Hopefully it results in progress, but often it does not.
Finally, they often realize that the achievement they get from teamwork is often out of their control. Conditions change during the project. Team dynamics can reduce the quality of the final product. Time constraints can impact individuals.
All of the problems children learn at school on teams are similar to those that adults face on projects. There is a big difference between children and adults in the response to difficulties. Even here, though, children often cope well, often having the ability to adapt to problems. Unfortunately, they usually lack the experience necessary to avoid such problems in the first place.
Teach Children About Project Costs
The last important lesson
Children often don't have any idea about project cost. Class work doesn't seem to have any cost. While this may be true for monetary costs, time is a cost that can be explained to children who are project managers. Again, the scope and the schedule can be explained to the child. They should be encouraged to define the project as tasks that can be accomplished in the time available. The cost is then acceptable. If there is a problem with the project work. What would the project manager do about it? Even a child can be taught that there can be an increase in cost to meet the schedule. Again, not a monetary cost, but a reputation cost. Try to emphasize this point early so that the deadline stress can be avoided.