Many people manage projects of some type and most of those are not professionally trained project managers. When it comes to making something happen, they just wing it: meetings, events, conferences, new businesses, small software projects, office relocations, house moves, weddings, parties, family vacations… you get my drift.
Can you help them? Yes you can… with a big caution warning.
Most of these folks would love to know what we know as project managers. But whenever they ask us how to manage a project they hear lots of ‘mumble jumble’ about scheduling, risk management, project charters and more. And they have often been told that they have to buy the latest project management tool. So we end up with some pretty confused people and a lot of unused project management software.
If you know someone who needs your help or better yet, who ASKS for your help, please approach them with a few key rules in mind:
- No software
- No Gantt charts
- No mention of quality, PMBOK, methodology or resource management.
For those people who manage just a few projects a year that don’t involve hundreds of stakeholders, millions of dollars and mission critical or life changing results, we should take what the professionally trained project manager knows and scale it all down to the appropriate audience.
Here is a guide to your next discussion when someone asks “How do you manage a project?
1. The Foundation.Right up front, you need to have a clear understand what you are building, why, when and for whom. In the big bad world of project management we call this the Project Charter. It is simple, clear and tells the customer just by its title, why you are using it. A charter, or an agreement or understanding of exactly what we are doing, for all concerned.
2. Plan the Plan. Create a list of all the work that has to be done, by whom and when. Forget formal project management software! Use excel or even Word. Keep it simple and clear.
3. Create a budget – remember to document all assumptions and side bar calculations, you will need these later. In some cases you may be well advised to include three columns of numbers: best guess, worst case and best case. Your readers might appreciate the insight.
4. Work the plan. A better word for this might be “Control the Plan”. Keep the budget and schedule up-to-date, managing changes and other ‘curve balls’. Keep the right people informed of progress and issues through regular meetings (virtual or in person) and timely reports to all.
5. Close the project well. Hold a post mortem to review what you did right and what you can improve on next time. Document everything that you did that you think might help the next person in line (even if you think it might me you again… things happen) and most importantly, gather the team together, say thank you and celebrate your success!
This is what your neighbour, friend, partner or child wants to hear and, frankly, all they really need.
Encourage Them to Stop Winging It! But stop making it so complicated.