Sometimes I think that as we work to develop new project managers, we make the subject matter seem more complicated than it needs to be. I’m not trying to say that all of the tools and processes and Bodies of Knowledge, and best practices, aren’t important for the next generation of project managers to learn about. It’s just that as experienced project managers seeking to teach the next generation, I think we get so caught up in communicating the esoteric, complex details of project management, that we miss conveying its essence. This complexity can confuse and distract, and perhaps even intimidate and turn-off aspiring PM’s. Those of us already steeped in (scarred by?) the art and science of project management are of course anxious to pass along everything that we’ve learned over our careers, to allow those that follow to be more successful. However, in our zeal to share our knowledge, too often we use the “fire-hose” teaching methodology, in which we direct an overwhelming flow of information at our students, sometimes “knocking them on their butts” so to speak.
So let’s focus on the basics. In my view of the project management world, the basics are handled by these ten questions and methods:
Project Initiation and Planning.
1. What is the work to be done? = The Statement of Work and the Work Breakdown Structure
2. When must that work be completed? = The Logic-linked Tasks in a Project Schedule
3. Who will do the work? = The Responsibility Assignment Matrix
4. How will the work be done? = Project Execution Plan and the Risk Management Plan
5. What are the risks to our plan? = The Risk Register and Risk management Plan
Project Execution, Monitoring & Control.
6. What accomplishments can we celebrate? = Recognition & Rewards
7. Is the Project on Plan? = Technical, Cost & Schedule Metric Variances and Action Plans
8. Are there New Issues or New Risks? = Registers and Action Plans
9. Who Needs Help? = Action Plans
10. What have we learned? = Lessons Records
I understand that project life isn’t as simple as these questions imply and that the “devil is in the details” as they say. However I believe that thinking about complex things in simple ways leads is a key leadership attribute and sets the stage for achievement and innovation.