There's More to Project Management than Process Alone

September 15, 2015 Heather Hurst

PMprocess-naomicNearly everyone who works in a professional setting is being called upon to understand and apply project management principles these days. This month, we're reaching out to three project management professionals and asking them six universal questions, in hopes of uncovering the underlying principles of successful project management, no matter what specific process or methodology is used.

This week, we welcome Naomi Caietti, CEO and managing editor of TheGlassBreakers.net.

What are the universal steps that comprise an ideal project management process?

An ideal project management process should first and foremost be all about transparency and leadership. Deliver value by managing stakeholder expectations and meeting customer needs. A big picture perspective would be to consider that an ideal project management process should comprise the right fit of tools, techniques and processes for the right project for the right customer that meets their needs.

Each organization will have formal or informal organizational best practices in project management processes, so the idea of "an ideal project management process" will be based on many factors. As a project leader, your methods and tools will be dictated by organizational culture, contracts, sponsor(s), executive leadership and Project Management Office business processes.

Also, your project should be aligned with the company's vision, mission and strategic goals, which will guide and define your project approach and help you and your team pick the right tools and methodology(s) for the respective project.

Why is it important for project managers (whether specially trained or not) to understand project management processes?

Projects are all about people, processes, politics, and everything in between. In his article, "The Five Reasons Clients Need Project Managers," Andrew Makar, along with myself and other project managers, shared insights into why organizations need project managers. Really, your goal as a project manager is to raise the value proposition in your organization by focusing on the customer first, building relationships, and partnering to achieve quality results and outcomes.

Project managers can't just rely on their tacit knowledge of project management; they must be better leaders who are mindful, open, flexible, empathetic, communicative and engaged. Project management is both an art and a science—a blend of hard and core skillsets. If you just focus on managing a process, you'll be missing the big picture aspects of project management today: people.

Multifaceted skillsets is one of the trends I describe in my article for LiquidPlanner, "Eight Skillsets You Need to Advance in Your Career." As a project manager, you must widen your depth and breadth of experience through continuous growth and development.

Today's organizations demand that you know more about project, program and portfolio tools, tips, techniques and methodologies. It's just that simple—or is it? Project managers need to focus on continuous growth and development and find a sponsor, mentor or coach to help them on their journey to becoming a project leader. Read more in my blog series on Mentoring for Project Managers with SensiblePM.

Which parts of the project management process do you think are most often skipped or ignored, whether intentionally or accidentally?

Certainly process is important to the management and control of a project, but it's not a silver bullet. Our focus should not be on process; it should first be on project leadership. Why? In my recent article for Kelly Project Solutions, "The Silver Bullet to Project Success – Sponsor, Project Manager and Business Analyst," I describe these roles and how they solve many of the signs and symptoms of project ailments that lead to project failure.

Project success should not be elusive if you have an executive sponsor, project manager and business analyst that are:

  1. identified at the beginning of your project
  2. equipped with competent, trained staff
  3. engaged with internal and external stakeholders throughout the project

In fact, these roles could be the remedy to major prevailing problems in your organization (e.g., poor project performance, missed/skipped processes, over budget projects, solutions that don't meet stakeholder needs/expectations).

What can go wrong if certain steps in the process are ignored?

Project failure is still one of the most talked about subjects in many major sectors and industries of project management, including IT, healthcare, and construction. The reality is that ignoring a step in the process is a sign and symptom of a bigger problem.

PMI's PM Network staff interviewed me and many other thought leaders in an article titled "The Blame Game: It's Not Always the Project Manager's Fault." We weighed in as experts from many sectors/industries to probe further into solutions for project failure. Today many organizational leaders and startups are of the mindset that if you fail, you should fail fast and learn from it quickly to not repeat the same mistakes, then pick yourself up and continue to innovate and disrupt.

How can today's online project management tools help project managers lead and work more effectively than in the past?

Project management tools allow you to communicate with your team and stakeholders, manage performance, and report and assess the pulse of your project at all times. My top three recommendations about tools are:

  • Get buy in from your stakeholders and team on the tools you will use to communicate, manage and control your project.
  • Tools are great, but keep them simple. Pick tools that fit with the culture of your organization and team. There is nothing worse than spending time and money on tools that no one uses or values.
  • Look for tools that offer a dashboard summary of your project to monitor the health of the project. The interfaces offer seamless information and data from your sponsors and team to track and manage both onsite and remotely.

What recommendations do you give to your clients regarding project management solutions?

  • Pick a tool that can be used anywhere, anytime. Web-based tools with a mobile interface are very popular. Pilot and test tools, and be prepared to always provide a nice report that can be viewed online or printed for a meeting.
  • There are so many new tools out in the marketplace; do your research and be flexible. Your various teams may want to use various tools to collaborate, track schedules/resources, and monitor/report on performance.
  • Remember, pick tool(s) that suit the size and scale of your project, be it small, medium or large. Sometimes a good old whiteboard, sticky notes and pens work well until you can find the right online tool.

About Naomi Caietti

Naomi Caietti is CEO/Managing editor of TheGlassBreakers.net as well as a global speaker, strategic advisor and contributing author of The Project Manager Who Smiled. She is a credentialed PMP, thought leader and subject matter expert for ProjectManagement.com. Naomi is a member of PMI and has over 27 years of project leadership in the field of information technology, working with private, public and nonprofit sector customers and clients in California and abroad. You can visit Naomi's website at The Glassbreakers and follow her on Twitter at @califgirl232.

Also read the first two articles in this series, our interviews with Robert Kelly and Trevor K. Nelson.

About the Author

Heather Hurst

Heather has enjoyed playing the game of marketing for the past 15 years, at the agency and corporate level, in both B2C and B2B companies. She's run PR campaigns that took her from the MTV Beach House to NASDAQ and many media outlets and content channels in between. She is currently the Corporate Marketing Director at Workfront.

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