It is interesting to listen to people's perception of project management—even those within the profession, including project managers, have different perceptions and definitions of what the profession encompasses.
Project management covers the development and execution of a specific project isolated from day-to-day operations. Often a project will combine talent and forces from departments across a business, can involve external people, and can also involve people from different geographical locations. Those involved in a project are selected based on project needs. A project's timeframe and magnitude can vary, however, there is always a definitive start and end date. Once the project has been completed, stakeholders can return back to their respective departments and duties—in some cases the stakeholders could complete a project alongside normal duties and other projects.
A project manager will mostly lead a group and manage the project. Depending on the business, the size of the project and number of active projects; they may call this something different or spread out the responsibilities across different team leaders. Inevitably you do need to have someone that helps to bring it all together, so whether it is one person leading the team or several team leaders coming together to discuss what is happening, it still requires leadership drive towards the same outcome.
It is vital to understand that each person is a leader in their own right. Effective leadership means empowering your team to lead themselves in roles and responsibilities. Doing this means those involved will be encouraged to take ownership of their contribution to the project. Drive and motivation comes from having a reason. Constantly ask why—the reasoning behind the 'why' connects an individual to what they are doing. This effectively motivates an individual to deliver their best work and achieve results. It is OK for people to have a vested interest in project participation, as long as it is not for reasons that could be detrimental to the outcome and the business.
It is important to understand that project management is not a one-man band and involves a whole team of dedicated professionals. A ship needs a Captain, but the Captain (i.e. project manager/leader) needs a ship to steer (i.e. a project) and a great crew (i.e. team) to run it. Lack of trust and respect are detrimental to a healthy relationship between a leader and the team. A good leader listens more than he/she speaks. The leader's job is to perfectly orchestrate the team's efforts and ensure the project's successful implementation. Of course, there are times where a leader will need to instruct. However, collaboration and working in an agile way with team members rather than merely providing guidance is the key to success. A leader has to win the hearts of the team, and should create more leaders rather than just themself.
Selecting team members and knowing what resources are needed for a project requires analytical and practical application skills. A good project manager/leader will be good at identifying what a project will require as well as taking into consideration cost and time, without compromising the quality of the outcome. This also includes being resourceful and knowing who to consult with when determining all of what is needed.
When the project is being executed and in motion, it can be very easy for things to go off track. So the management of the project, which all involved are responsible for, includes ensuring that things are progressing and running smoothly. Two important things to keep in mind are adaptability and problem solving. Not only the project manager/leader need to be adaptable, everyone does. Things will happen, and not everything will go according to plan. There will be times where you will need to problem solve and develop solutions, methods may need changing etc. Consequently, you should factor in regular check in points and evaluations with your team to ensure that everything is going according to plan and if not, top and solve problems as quickly as possible.
Communication is vital in project management. There needs to be continuous communication between team members. A project may require working to multiple deadlines so that the overall deadline will be met. This will not happen if everyone is not communicating effectively and transparently. Everyone is providing a specific area of expertise for the project, producing work that fits together like parts of a machine—once all the parts are there, the machine is complete. The project manager/leader will ultimately be the one to oversee the project however, everyone needs to take responsibility for communicating with the team about what they are doing.
Projects are there to serve a business. However there is a saying, "systems run your business and people run your systems". It can be concluded from this that if business operations, including projects, are to run smoothly, then people need to be looked after. Any project that is managed properly is one where the people involved in the project are looked after. Projects provide opportunities for people to undertake further training and education to learn and build new skills. This keeps them stimulated and allows themopportunities to be innovative and utilize their potential. Often this could be a stepping stone for career progression, hugely benefiting a business creating a win-win situation.
Projects are necessary for both individual and business development, ultimately leading to business growth for the latter and avenues for greater job satisfaction for the former. Project management plays a crucial role in achieving success for both the business and the project team, and should not be underestimated or undermined. In fact, the better the understanding that all professionals have about project management, the greater the achievements that are possible.