How honoured you would be…

…if you were appointed to be the project manager of the next Olympic Games!

The Olympic Games in London and Sydney produced some examples of excellent project management, and rightly so, but being the project manager for such events is, in some ways, easy.

For example, the budget for just the project management for an Olympic Games runs into millions of Dollars, Pounds or Euros. There will be a support team numbering in the hundreds for several years. The project manager will never have to pick up a paint brush or a spade.

People would expect the project to be managed properly, and will be willing to provide the budget and support network to make sure it will be a success.


How unlucky you are…

Imagine just how unlucky you actually are. You call into the office kitchen on your way to your desk, and start to make a cup of coffee. The boss walks past, and hands you a piece of paper.

She says “This has just arrived – have a look and work out what we should do about it”.

At no time in the conversation does the boss use the words ‘project’ or ‘project manager’. The job is maybe too small to be considered ‘officially’ as a project. It might only be a few days’ work, spread out over the few weeks, fitting in alongside your other day-to-day commitments.

Why did the boss give this to you? Well, it falls into your area of interest and expertise. You would be a little upset if the boss had given it to someone else. By the time you’ve read the document the boss has gone. Your coffee is ready, so you go back to your desk, sit down, and think about the ‘project’ you have just been handed.

You are now at a potentially dangerous moment. What you do next is going to have a massive influence on the chances of this piece of work being successful.

What many of us do is to think along these lines (usually unconsciously):

  • You know what has to be done and you have a pretty good idea of how to do it

  • You find the job interesting

  • Time is tight

  • You certainly don’t want to waste precious time messing about with fancy project management stuff

  • You’ve not been trained in project management

  • It’s not actually a project, is it?

  • You don’t have any project management software installed on your PC

You jump straight in. After all, you’ve got the email, or minutes of a meeting, or letter from a customer or whatever it was from the boss in your hand. You apply yourself to the work, using all your technical skills, knowledge and experience, in the most professional manner.

You do an excellent job, but sometimes, even while you are working on it, you have the nagging feeling that maybe you could be controlling things a bit better.

The implications of this approach are:

  • you have no plan – so when you are asked if it is going well you have to say ‘yes’;

  • you are never sure if it will be finished on time– so you just have to work through your lunch breaks, early mornings and late nights just to stay on top;

  • when the boss asks– “can you just do this as well” you have to say yes, as you have no idea of the potential impact of the additional work;

  • you can’t involve anyone else– because you have no clear idea what to do yourself, you can’t delegate effectively;

  • when it starts to slip– you make the macho decision to really go for it;

  • when you finish it, and hand it over– you are furious with yourself, because the boss says “yes, it’s good but it’s not exactly what I wanted”.

….and now other work has to slip while you do the job all over again, trying to get it right this time.

From the moment you make the decision to jump straight in, the project is out of control. You will be pulled around by outside influences and have no means of managing changes, measuring progress and checking quality. You do an excellent technical job but it may well be the wrong one. So, if you recognise yourself here, then this book and the practical approaches described are just for you.


Do you undertake projects?

If you undertake items of work that:

  • create something new, beyond routine operations;
  • fulfil some measurable business objectives;
  • consume company resources.

Then you are probably running projects. Many of us run projects without even knowing it, or without looking for tools and techniques from the project management toolkit to help us survive the experience.

Even if you do run projects you may use your organisation’s formal approach to project management (sometimes referred to as a method or methodology) for some of them, usually the bigger and more complex projects. What method do you use for the smaller projects, the activities, the ‘can you just do this’ pieces of work that creep under the radar?

This book is for people in both categories; those of us who don’t run formal projects but who carry out assignments for the boss, and those of us who use formal methods for certain types of project but who are looking for a light approach to the smaller, less complex, lower risk projects.


What does this book cover?

Project management is not a ‘one size fits all’ set of recipes. “Just do this and all will be well” does NOT apply here. Every project is different, and a fixed approach will mislead people into thinking that managing projects is simply a matter of following the rules in the textbook.

This book describes a process-based approach to project management that follows the steps you would typically go through in running a project. However, where the method outlined in this book differs is that it encourages the project manager to be very selective about the bureaucracy. Yes, there has to be some documentation, but let’s keep it simple and appropriate.

The starting point for the method is ‘if you could run your project quite safely and successfully on the back on an envelope, why would you do anything else?’

Under some circumstances it may be necessary to add an extra envelope, but only if you, the project manager, think it is going to be of benefit to you.

The book uses a case study to illustrate some of the points of typical project management activities. The case study is a very simple project, designed so that you can see project management in action.

As you progress through the book you will see how the various forms can be used to support your project management. Please feel free to copy them, alter them and use them to make your life a little easier.

The method described and explained in this book is a cut down version of the Praxis Framework. It includes simple process descriptions and a few sample forms; all you need to manage a range of projects.

At the end of each chapter there are references to further reading from the Praxis Framework web site. These are reference materials and articles that will help you address larger more complex projects, or just elements of your simple project that need a bit more detail in the way they are managed.

Throughout this book you may come across common project management terminology that is new to you. Wherever appropriate, we have linked terms to the Praxis Encyclopaedia so that with one click you can gain a simple explanation.


Thanks to Mike Watson of Obsideo for providing this book


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