Praise of Project Management: Why - and How - to Bring It to Your
Project management expert Stan Portny
provides guidance for busy project managers who are riding the wake of
the downsizing tidal wave.
company filled with project managers? It should be. But if
the question confuses you, you're not alone. For many folks, the
words "project management" call to mind an arcane, highly
technical discipline consisting of charts, graphs and - let's face it -
a higher-than-average ratio of pocket protectors! But project
management's geeky image has undergone a dramatic change in recent
years. It's no longer viewed as a career choice, but as a
necessary business skill.
says project management consultant Stan Portny, president of Stanley E.
Portny and Associates, LLC and author of Project Management For
(Hungry Minds, Inc., 2001, ISBN: 0-7645-5283-X, $21.99) - your
company needs people with strong skills in this arena.
Furthermore, even if you think you're doing project management, you
really may be just "playing" at it.
management is a skill that pervades every aspect of a corporation,"
he explains. "It is a way of thinking about the work you
do. Therefore, it is not a separate department within your
company, but an integrated business approach. If there isn't
someone within your organization capable of imparting tools and
techniques of project management to key employees, now is the time to
bring in a trainer.
project management so critical for today's organizations? Portny
offers the following reasons:
current business environment is project-heavy. First of
all, companies in general are completely integrated now (as opposed
to the old "silo" structure), But the issue is much
larger than that. In an age of finite resources, tight
deadlines and more and more cross-functional team involvement, work
is increasingly broken into projects. Solid, proven project
management skills are necessary for juggling the myriad components
of our multifaceted work world. They literally turn chaos into
sagging economy demands project management skills. We're
all having to do more with less. Money is tighter than ever,
there are fewer employees to get the job done, and many employees
suddenly find themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to
manage projects. Furthermore, many companies are barely
hanging on. There is little or no room for error - so getting
those employees some training in project management is paramount.
management training alleviates stress. "Naturally,
having to manage projects when you're totally unfamiliar with the
process is incredibly stressful," Portny points out.
"Few companies can afford the 'luxury' of even one employee
having an emotional meltdown. When you consider the systemic
nature of stress - the way it tends to spread through an
organization - it's not hard to see that you must help your
employees alleviate their stress. Teaching them the tools and
techniques of project management will help do just that."
employee happiness is an investment in the future. Just
because jobs are scarce right now doesn't mean they will be
tomorrow. If you are currently putting your employees in
stressful work situations, they'll resent it. And when the
economy picks up again, they may decide not to stay with you.
By teaching them the art of project management, you're creating a
workplace in which they can thrive - and you're giving them a skill
they need for career advancement. They'll appreciate it!
Furthermore, project management transcends the business world.
Your employees will be better able to handle other life
issues. That makes for happier employees, which in turn leads
to a healthier, more productive company.
you're convinced that project management training is a good thing for
your company. But how do you go about getting it? There are
lots of people out there who offer this service, so how do you separate
the wheat from the chaff? Here are Portny's thoughts on the most
important qualities to look for in a project management consultant:
Okay, this one is fairly obvious! But it bears
emphasizing. Look for a consultant who has a lot of firsthand
experience under his or her belt. There is no substitute for a
history of having personally managed hundreds of projects - how else
is a trainer to know what works and what doesn't? Furthermore,
make sure he or she can demonstrate adequate knowledge of your
industry and even your company. Good project managers do their
homework. And be sure he or she is a Project Management
Institute (PMI®) certified Project Management Professional (PMP®)
and that his or her organization is a PMI Registered Education
"people skills." It really doesn't matter how
well a consultant understands the technical side of project
management if he or she can't relate to and inspire people. An
understanding of the mechanics of project management - and an
ability to whip out charts and graphs - is only the beginning.
A good consultant creates an exciting training environment,
communicates well, and uses humor to help people relax. After
all, project management itself demands good people skills; a
consultant must be able to convey this fact - and demonstrate it by
ability to create a comfortable, non-threatening learning
environment. "I have found that 90% of the training
session's benefit comes during the question-and-answer
session," explains Portny. "It's vitally
important that participants feel comfortable asking questions, even
questions they may fear are 'dumb, cynical or negative. I know
project management works because I've done it for years, but people
won't believe this until they can think it through themselves and
explore it from every angle. I want my participants to
actually look forward to coming to my sessions - and that's the
attitude you should look for in a consultant."
commitment to follow-through and accountability. A good
project management consultant should be with you for the long
haul. He or she should not only do a thorough job of training
your people, but should be willing to return, say, a month later to
get your feedback and see if there's a marked difference in their
effectiveness. Make sure your consultant is open to having
people call or email with questions. After all, project
management training is not just about sharing information, but
making sure it works in your real-life situation.
the most critical quality to look for in a project management
consultant, says Portny, is one that's hard to quantify: passion.
A person who has a fervent belief in the power of project management is
much more likely to get your employees enthusiastic about it.
had people tell me, 'I think this kind of stuff will work but I know
that you believe it - and that motivates me," Portny recalls.
"When people can see that you're excited, they get
excited. And that makes all the difference in how effective your
project management efforts will be."
it really is an exciting field," he adds. It is
fascinating that the same processes that were used 50 years ago to build
skyscrapers and create space programs will work in today's business
environment. Whether it's a 10-year project or a two-week project,
taking a simple, logical approach makes your work easier and more
efficient. It's so rewarding to me to help people recognize that
mindset and develop that sense of focus ... and to see the tremendous
difference it makes in an organization."