This book chronicles the exploits of Brad—a fictional character who’s been thrust into the wonderful world of project management. Just like many project management professionals I’ve met in my many years in the field, he was drawn into the battle reluctantly, but he emerged wanting more.
And as you will soon discover, project management is actually a curious combination of art and science. The artistry refers to the leadership part of the role, or the people component. The science—which we will explore with Brad—consists of the tools and techniques that form the underpinnings of the entire project management process. But instead of simply providing information on project management tools and their proper use, this book will explore the principles behind their use. This marriage of tools and the principles behind them yields a powerful, plainlanguage guide that not only explains how to do things, but why they need to be done.
The book presents a realistic view of project management— a very difficult, yet rewarding profession. The role of project manager is a particularly challenging job. Actually, many practicing project managers consider overcoming challenges to be the essence of their job. So this book explores project management from the standpoint of challenges. The very first chapter, in fact, explores the question of whether you should even take on the role at all! Don’t let me scare you though. This book—if you stick with it—will provide all of the tools and techniques you’ll need to overcome just about any problem related to the science of project management.
The first three chapters lay out everything you need to know about projects, project management, and the role of project manager. Establishing a foundation of understanding in these areas will provide the context you need to better understand the world you (and Brad) are about to enter.
Brad’s first big challenge unfolds in Chapter 4, as he tries to figure out exactly what he’s supposed to do! All too often, project managers are given half-baked ideas that they must convert into viable, feasible, money-making ventures. This isn’t easy. Chapter 4 will show you how to define your project so that everyone understands what it will accomplish, and agrees that it is a worthwhile undertaking.
Building and maintaining an effective team is always challenging. Chapter 5 offers a host of practical tips for getting the right people, providing the right amount of direction, and ensuring that people will be standing in line to work on your next project.
Few would argue against the understanding that planning is the heart of project management. Planning is so important, in fact, that I’ve devoted two chapters to this subject. Project managers are under tremendous pressure to “just get on with the work.” Consequently, project planning is sometimes shortchanged.
Chapter 6 helps you understand the function and purpose of planning, and offers insights on the challenges you can expect to face as you strive to prepare your project plan. Once this groundwork of understanding is laid, Chapter 7 shows you the nuts and bolts of planning, step by step.
One of the biggest single challenges all project managers face is risk and uncertainty. By their very nature, projects are one-time events. This means that you don’t really know what to expect or how things are going to turn out. Chapter 8 will show you how to address that challenge so as to, if not eliminate risk, manage it effectively.
Chapter 9 describes how you can stay in control while the project work is being done, even though there are many different people doing many different things. The key to tackling this challenge, as you will see, is information. And plenty of it.
Chapter 10 shows you how to mange the environment that surrounds your project. Just like Brad, you will discover that there are a myriad of people and things trying to tug your project in different directions. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to manage your project interfaces in an effective manner.
Effective communication and proper documentation are threads that bind the project together. The biggest challenge you’ll face in this area, however, is likely to come from within. Many people do not communicate as effectively as they would like, and many try to avoid documentation. If either of these situations describes you, be sure to read Chapter 11. You’ll find many tips and techniques that will enhance your understanding of communication and documentation from the project manager’s perspective.
Eventually, your project will come to an end. Brad discovered that this part of the project is surprisingly challenging.
Confusion and chaos are not unlikely in the waning days of the project. Chapter 12 shows you how you can cut through the chaos and drive your project to a successful conclusion.
Brad’s adventure in managing Project Apex was an incredible learning experience for him, as I trust this book will be for you. Obviously, you can’t learn everything there is to know about project management in a single book. That’s OK. Most of what you will eventually learn about project management will come from your on-the-job experience. The intent of this book is to provide practical tips and techniques that will open the door for your self-development, and allow you to get the most from your experiences.
Being an excellent project manager requires years of practice. For many, however, getting started is the toughest part. This book, I am certain, will get you off to an excellent start.