I was poked to answer the question on meaning of project management by Shim Marom. Since my work, and this blog, evolved away from covering what can be called traditional project management approach long ago I thought it may be a good occasion to restate the purpose of the blog as well.
Se here it is.
Getting the stuff done
The simplest answer, from the top of my head, is that project management is all about making it happen. Of course it’s not a single person’s effort. It’s more orchestration of all the stuff happening around but at end of the day the discussion always starts with what got delivered.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
Getting the right stuff done
The discussion on the right stuff is primarily product management / product ownership thing but most definitely it’s not beyond the scope of what I consider project management. After all, if you’re doing the wrong thing there’s no credit to anyone. A project manager isn’t an exception here.
So yes, it starts with grasping the business case, understanding how the project corresponds to it and actively working on that match.
When we are on the right thing though, it’s inevitable that doing right thing versus doing thing right argument will pop up…
Getting the right stuff done right
Getting the thing right is about the quality. If there’s no quality built-in it’s going to come back to you and bite you in the butt. Painfully. While I’m as far as possible from introducing oppression tools like quality procedures and such stuff, quality doesn’t automagically happen. One needs to create environment where high quality thrives and is encouraged.
What exactly the high quality means is obviously contextual but from my experience it’s not that difficult to describe the quality in any given context.
If nothing else you can always make the next project better than the last one.
Getting the right stuff done right and improving
This brings me to one of the areas I sunk into when I started flirting with Kanban – continuous improvement. There should be no pride in doing same stuff again and again. Unless you’re a freaking genius and know it all about project management, that is.
Personally, I couldn’t be farther from that. That’s why I have an ambition to improve. Improve the way I work but also improve the way everyone around works. It’s not that easy as it sounds though. The prerequisites are: understanding how the work gets done and learning like hell.
Without understanding work we are like children in the fog – clueless and lost. Learning means that we broaden our horizons and go beyond that carrot and stick method our first managers were using all the time.
Getting the right stuff done right, improving and building trust
This one is a classic last but not least. In fact, I believe that without trust you will struggle across the board. And I mean trust here in a very broad sense. One, it is about building trust within a team. Without that people wouldn’t become vulnerable, thus would restrain to become transparent. Without that a project manager would always have limited information of what’s happening in an endeavor they’re supposed to lead.
Second, and more importantly, it’s about building trust with a client. That’s where the real fun starts. It’s really rare when a client would take the first step and will start to be open, transparent and vulnerable. The good part is that they will likely do so once they see it on the other side. But this is fear that every project manager, and every team member, has to overcome by themselves.
The example, as usually, should go from leaders.
So this is it. I believe this definition works well for me right now and the stuff I deal with fits the picture neatly. It doesn’t matter whether I talk about Kanban, organizational culture or team management. It doesn’t matter whether I deal with a portfolio level, a project level or a task level. It’s all there.
Project management is about getting the right stuff done right, improving and building trust.