At New Year our Managing Director reflects on what could be New Year’s Resolutions for the Project Management Industry and those working within it.
Project Management can provide a fascinating and varied career for those who are passionate about getting things done and working towards goals and deadlines. It is, however, a fairly new specialism, and came mainly from the construction and engineering industries, hence the focus is very much on structure, discipline and process.
Whilst this has provided some much-needed structure for managing change projects in the workplace, it’s important to reflect on what does and doesn’t work, and what better time for this is the turn of a new year?
Project Management is increasingly being used to manage workplace change, especially in the public sector. Our clients often have to manage a difficult balance between running services and making change happen. Whilst the structure of project management can help with this, there are still some gaps.
Here are some tips (or even potential New Year’s resolutions) for project managers looking to develop further in 2020:
1. Learn about change management
Many people hold the view that change management (the ‘people’ side of project management) is a completely separate discipline and profession. Whilst there are some merits in this view in complex ICT projects, my opinion is that generally it works best when the structured discipline of project management is combined with the people elements. This is more so in the public sector than anywhere.
We have amazing people in the sector, who are passionate about helping, building and supporting communities. In the nicest possible way, they are not motivated by risk logs. So, projects led and managed purely on structure and discipline, and not by engagement people, are unlikely to make a difference. If you are a public sector PM get yourself a change management book, or join the Change Management Institute and brush up your skills so you can do a bit of both.
2. Keep it simple
In project management, documentation is key, and structure and discipline are crucial. But as with everything, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and over time project reporting and documentation can easily become unwieldly. Our policy at Trueman Change is that we drive change, not administer it. If a document helps you to drive a project forward use it, if it doesn’t add value don’t.
It’s important to think critically about how we document and report activity, to make sure that the bulk of our time is on doing and not reporting. This can be difficult in large organisations where there might be policies and rules around documentation and reporting, but I would challenge anyone working in projects to really question the need and value and not fall into reporting cycle traps without good reason.
At Trueman Change we take a very hands on approach to project management – we want to spend more time actually delivering than administering projects, because this is where we think we add the most value. Perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to do “just enough” project administration and focus more time on really helping to deliver?
3. Build up a varied toolbox
There’s a saying I love: ‘To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail’. We are all guilty of learning a new tool or methodology and trying to apply it everywhere! And let’s be honest, there are a LOT of tools and methodologies in project management. My advice would be to get some diversity of thought in your approach. Yes, PRINCE2 has some great principles, and yes, sometimes Agile works much better, but sometimes, you can take a pick and mix approach and apply aspects of both, or develop something new.
The answer is rarely to blindly follow one specific methodology, and particularly in the sectors we work in, people are not motivated or inspired by project management methodology. They are inspired by making change happen, so be flexible in your approach. If a usual way of presenting a project board is falling flat, research other ways and try something else.
Project documentation that your stakeholders actually engage with is inherently more valuable than technically perfect documentation that they don’t bother to read. Learning a few different tools will give you flexibility and confidence to try different ways of working.
These are my thoughts about how project managers can develop their skills in the new year, and perhaps how the industry as a whole might develop. What are your development goals or new year resolutions?
Does this approach sound like yours?
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