Management

Project Management 101

If you think you can ‘do it yourself,’ think again.

April 23, 2012
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +

For years, I was an executive at a sign manufacturing company. We specialized in massive projects—from a million-dollar scoreboard at a pro football stadium to a multistate bank branding change involving hundreds of locations.

The keys to our success were both the personnel and the systems—enabling us to manage large-scale projects.

Of course, many of our customers were nervous. I remember bidding on one college stadium where the president of a general contractor was having problems convincing his key staff that we could handle the job.

To allay their fears, he flew some of these folks out to see our shop. After a brief tour and meeting, the president asked his staff to raise their hands if they thought our sign company could handle the contract.

Most of the hands went up, but a few still looked worried. “And who thinks we can handle the job ourselves?” he asked his minions.

Note: Awkward moments are often priceless ones.

For good project management in any situation, there are two choices. Either you:

  1. Hire a firm or individual with loads of experience; or
  2. Wing it, using a copy of “Project Management for Dummies” as your reference.

Being seasoned, experienced, and thoughtful credit union people, most of my colleagues probably opt for No. 2: the amazon.com option (priced at $14.95, including super-saver shipping). This, apparently, is what subcontractors love to see, too. After all, they can step in later to finish things up properly for a nice paycheck.

So for those who plan to invest less than $20, here are key project management tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid overhiring. Doubling the number of workers usually won’t cut the time in half. To illustrate, a woman can have a baby in nine months. Nine women can’t reduce that time to one month.
  • Plan your milestones. If you have only two (“the beginning” and “the end”), you haven’t really tried.
  • Document everything. All projects can be accomplished on time and within budget in a make-believe world called “paper.”
  • Budget for excess. Your project will take twice as long and cost three times as much. Or is it take three times as long and cost twice as much?
  • Pad your estimate. This is a time-honored tradition of analyzing the time and resources needed and then ignoring your analysis.
  • Determine your critical path. For most of us, it’s the path to the CEO’s desk to tell him why the project still isn’t done and is massively over-budget.
  • Stay calm. Money is not your most precious resource constraint. Sanity is.
  • Don’t panic. If you use one of those computer scheduling systems to ensure you finish the project by a certain date, it will show that you should have started two weeks ago.
  • Don’t celebrate until the project is done. That light at the end of the tunnel actually is the Crazy Train coming into the station.
  • Prepare for scope creep—when the project’s goals move forward as the project moves backward.
  • Determine your priorities. You can manage costs and you can manage time. You can’t do both.
  • Plan for contingencies. The only benefit of not planning is that you’ll avoid worrying about the cliff you’re about to drive over.

Complicated projects require people with the skills to manage them—people who aren’t flustered by setbacks, but who see them as part of the process. These folks are unique, driven, and “nuts.” Due to their particular abilities, great project managers will save you a lot of time, money, and anguish.

If you still don’t know whether you need a project manager, ask your staff, “Who thinks we can handle this job?”

That awkward moment will make it obvious.

JAMES COLLINS is president/CEO at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash. Contact him at 360-943-0740.

PM Reader

Melvin Gooding
September 01, 2012 4:48 pm
Great article, Projects need managers who are willing to take chances as well as be open to changes. They must be able to see the changes that are taking place around them and in the project itself and apply counter processes to get back on track or avoid time and cost conflicts.


Flag Comment as Offensive

Post a comment to this story

heroes

What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive