What is Project Management
This article aims to answer the question What is project management? The article is based on years of training project management. It is also based on working with project managers and people who manage projects as part of their job.
Because projects are so common in lots of roles today, an understanding of project management is vital for many people.
What is Project Management - Managing
Literally project management is all about overseeing all the different elements that lead to the completion of a piece of work. This means managing is essential. Making sure all the tasks which make up the project are performed successfully.
It involves managing both the processes and people elements. Read more about the skills involved in project management in our article Project Management Skills.
Successful project management involves planning. This means lots of activity bin preparing the project before it begins.
The planning phase of a project is very important because it lays the foundations for success. As the saying goes, ‘The great thing about not planning is that failure comes as a great surprise’.
What is a Project
What is a project? One part of project management is not to make assumptions, so let’s start by not making an assumption. For that reason the word project needs defining.
A project can be defined as any unusual piece of work that would not be carried out in a regular working week.
For more details on this go to our article ‘What is a Project‘.
What is Project Management - Project Kick-off Meeting
The project kick-off meeting is an essential part of a successful project. This is because human beings still need to feel part of a group.
The kick off meeting can be face to face or on line. The idea is to make sure everyone;s expectations are set in the right way. But more than that it is about helping people to feel part of a group, the project group.
At the kick-off meeting the objectives and context for the project will be made clear. The importance to the organisation can be emphasised. Questions from the project group can be answered so that everyone feels they have a cl;ear idea on what the project is about and their role in it.
Leading the Project
Leadership in a project is usually the responsibility of the project manager. (see our article on project manager responsibilities.)
Leadership differs from manageemnt by our definition in that it is about setting the right culture for the project group. Where management is about who does what, as well as when and how they do it. Leadership is about what it is like to work on that project. The vision for the project. How it makes people feel to be a part of it.
Project leadership is a distinct part of project management and needs specific focus and attention.
What is Project Management - Managing the Process
There are lots of processes involved and to answer the question ‘what is project management’ it is useful to look at the most important.
Project planning: the process of outlining each step in the project; who will do what and by when.
Communication processes: Includes when communication will occur and where data will be stored.
Milestones: The big steps in a project.
Tasks: The smaller steps in each milestone.
Managing people is a critical part of project management. The team members who make up a project team will need different approaches to their management. Their personalities, responses to stress, time management abilities, to mention just a few, will all impact on how they need to be managed.
Managing people means understanding what each person needs in terms of resources, time, context, support, reward and motivation to do the job. Some people just need the task and objective outlined and they can get the job done. Others need a lot more context of the overall project, not just the task they need to perform. And others need motivation and support to do a hood job. Consequently project management often requires skillful people management for the project to be a success.
What is Project Management - Fire Fighting
Despite careful planning things do go wrong. The term fire fighting in this context relates to unforeseen problems that occur in the project.
The project manager needs to react to these problems with a cool head and wherever possible with a plan. Most problems can be predicted and planned for. Fire fighting should mean the implementation of a planned response.
What is Project Management - Influencing
As projects involve working with people who may not have the same priorities as the project lead, influencing can be a key skills to use in successful project management.
Influencing is involved when trying to ensure people on the project, who are involved in many projects or pieces of work, do what you need them to do. Persuading people requires an understanding of their perspective of the work, their motivation and personality.
Managing performance means making sure those involved in the project deliver wok of the right quality. The quality required needs communicating at the outset so that people have the opportunity to perform to that standard.
Project management means making sure the quality required is achieved.
Most organisations have multiple projects at any one time. Managing expectations is to ensure that all those people involved in the project and all those impacted by it, have their understanding of what is happening managed.