How often do you say, “I don’t have time to plan this project, let’s just get it done now.” Or what about, “I can just do it faster than I can explain it.” And, the ever-famous, “I’ll just work it in and get it done tomorrow.” Meanwhile, your employees are twiddling their thumbs waiting for work. Clients are calling because things are late. Or, worse – because they haven’t heard from you in a week after you told them it would be “done tomorrow.”
If you’re thinking, “wait a minute, that doesn’t sound like project management.” Good news, you’ve taken the first step in identifying what project management really is. Sometimes, the easiest way to explain it is to first describe the LACK of it. Like the examples above.
- No project plans
- Internal resources underutilized
- Unknown project statuses
- Chaotic days
- Chaotic client meetings
Because when project management is correctly in place, there is an absence of problems. It’s often invisible. So with that in mind, let’s break down what project management really is.
Projects Don’t Get Done on Their Own
The truth is, projects don’t get done on their own. So whether it’s you, the business owner pushing projects across the finish line, or another employee who’s managing it, someone at your company is technically already “doing” project management. But, at the sacrifice of what? Your valuable time? Your employees’ time that they should be using to say, code software? Or maybe it’s at the expense of client relationships. Like, having one of your employees handle client communications who isn’t as skilled for those conversations as a project manager would be.
When you get involved in the day-to-day project details, you’re taking away time that you could be spending growing your business. So who’s going to do it instead? Enter project management.
So What is Project Management?
Project management is the art of organizing the details of a project. WHAT is going to happen, WHO is going to do it, and WHEN does it need to get done. It keeps projects on time and within budget. When your projects are completed within budget, you can avoid scope creep and maintain profits, thus growing your business. It’s performed by the team’s unsung hero, the project manager. Project managers get sh** done.
Project management facilitates both YOU and YOUR clients’ end goals. It’s not invasive or bureaucratic. The structure it creates should set you free, not bog you down. It also optimizes resources and makes sure everything and everyone works together.
Let’s put this into football terms. Say you send a football team out on the field. You tell the center to hike the ball; you tell the quarterback to call a play; and you tell the running back to run. But without anybody coordinating when all that happens or which play is called when you just have a bunch of people running around.
While everyone is technically doing their jobs, there’s not that one person who’s making sure the team is working together and moving in harmony.
The project manager’s job is to make sure that all of those people work together as a team. Like a coach. Sometimes the project manager is completely irreplaceable because it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the team members are at their jobs. If they don’t know how to do it in harmony and within the controls of the project at hand, it’s not going to succeed.
What is NOT Project Management?
It’s important to also define what is NOT project management. There are many misconceptions. Project management is NOT:
- Keeping track of a to-do list
- Being a “yes man”
- Meaningless processes that hinder work
- Non-billable overhead (it’s billable!)
- Schedule tracking
- Projects that play out perfectly, as planned
The Art of Project Management
The problem with the above misconceptions is that these are all things that don’t add a ton of value. True project management provides value. And even with a project manager in place, projects can still (and will) go awry. That’s why project managers are skilled at navigating tough conversations, scope changes, and setting expectations.
Project managers also ask strategic questions. It’s not just telling people what to do. For example, project managers can help visualize outcomes and mitigate risk. For example, “So if we go down this path and we do it this way, what do you think’s going to happen when we get here?” Or, “You know, I see some potential problems with this plan… these are the three things that might happen. How can we mitigate that before we get there?”
There’s also an art to saying “no.” If the client makes a decision that is not what you would make, project managers can say “Yes, we can do that! Here are the consequences to that decision….”
Project management is one of the operational pieces that Beyond the Chaos can help you with, from project inception to completion. It can come in the form of running your status meetings, creating new processes, or implementing new collaboration software.
Beyond the Chaos was recently named one of the top project management blogs of 2021 by Ganttic. Keep reading for more help on how to eradicate the chaos from your small business and successfully manage your team, your operations, your clients, and your projects.