Best Practice | By Laurence West | Read time minutes
This is an article about Presentation, Planning and Processing; the three cornerstones of project management.
Anyone who has ever tried to organise something important seems to either love it or loath it. I remember friends organising trips out for people's birthdays and just not being able to cope with having multiple people to deal with, the planning of train times or car pools and the often continual flood of questions, niggles and other bits and bobs that are important to the person, but overall not so key.
Therefore I would like to break project management down into three categories and speak a little about each and what it means for our clients. All three categories are equally important because with one omitted your project will be earmarked for failure from the start and it is likely only a matter of time.
This is not presentation in terms of securing the business, it is more about the presentation of the project on an ongoing basis. The project manager is the one who knows about all the different aspects of the project and is normally the one people come to with questions. Therefore it is your general method and approach to different departments and to the project as a whole that is important.
It can be hard to find the right balance between urgency and taking a relaxed attitude to things and it has to be modified and rebalanced for almost every project. However, a general rule of thumb is that if it's important it's urgent unless otherwise stated.
A second rule of thumb is even if something is urgent, appear somewhat relaxed about it. There is nothing better to instil calm confidence in someone than the project manager running round in circles crying
It's all over! It's all over!
Presentation is also important to keep people focused on the project. Often people and clients come to a project with all guns blazing and more promises than a labour government, but as soon as other projects call there is too great a split in their time causing at least one project to suffer. This can be painful to watch as you know that every day that goes by is a day where they could have been making more money than before.
Therefore it is important to keep all people intimately involved in the project so that they stay focused and continue to understand its importance months after the start date. The freshness of anything new is often exciting, but it is important to keep that going throughout the whole time frame of the project.
This is processing in almost a mechanistic way where following procedures to the T is important. It is critical that the project manger is on the ball with the project as a whole and if they can't work through each step then it is unlikely anyone else will be able to.
This links in with being calm and processing information and problems in a logical fashion. It is rare that something goes so drastically wrong so quickly that the project is over however, it may seem like that at the time. Perspective on events is important and this can come from processing information in such a way that you end up with the correct answers to that frame of reference and can work from a stable foundation.
Ending up with the right answers is not a matter of bending things so they fit your client's goals and objectives, it is about using a tried and tested method to arrive at a conclusion. If things aren't looking great then work smarter so they are better next time. As Ed Boyden says,
make your mistakes quickly and move on.
With all aspects of project management it is important to make sure that you are precise, particularly in terms of your goals and expectations. Managing expectations and keeping them focused, grounded and in check is incredibly important to overall success. Personally I always have two or three sets of goals: minimums, expectations and ideals so I can gauge how well something is doing in terms of its proximity to failure and sky rocketing.
Finally, the two coldest aspects of project management processing are analysis and the setting of priorities. Here you must set all personal feelings aside, put one thing before another and crunch some numbers. Sometimes things just don't make the cut and part of good management is being able to cull those aspects.
Need I say more? Plan, plan, plan, plan and plan some more! Plan to succeed, plan to fail and plan for everything in between. This is the most important aspect of project management. I want to say it doesn't matter how to plan, but often it does. Make your planning clear, effective and for god's sake make sure it covers all the bases!
Ultimately you want to plan to be:
- On time, more commonly know as early. Just because others are late it doesn't mean the project has to be (particularly if you planned for them to be late!).
- On budget, plan for the extra expenditure via experience from similar situations.
- On track for producing a high quality product by planning all aspects and eventualities whilst managing expectations and objectives.
Project management is an immense field and one which changes from industry to industry and project to project. Rarely will two be the same and personally I find it worrying if it goes 100% smoothly for too long. Planning is fundamental but it cannot dominate the landscape; processing and presentation have their own amazing benefits and taking advantage of them is only the start of a great project!
Laurence West graduated in 2007 with a degree in Philosophy and English Literature from the University of Sussex and works for leading Brighton based search engine marketing agency Leapfrogg as an account and project manager.