How Project Management Helps
Doing the minimum has always taken a bad rap in modern society. We experience constant nudges prodding us to go beyond the required and put in the extra effort. Although working hard is admirable and a great trait, it can also be self-limiting if not pointed in the right direction.
In the project management world, you pay a person to do a job following specific guidelines. If they don’t achieve those guidelines, they either don’t get paid, or they must spend additional time and effort to achieve those requirements. Now, a project manager may go above and beyond those requirements because they believe the customer wants that extra effort. However, it is unknown whether that extra effort will make the customer happier or if that extra effort will turn your product into something they no longer want.
For example, consider an assigned essay on the theme of Walden’s Pond. The professor asks that the paper consist of 2,000 words on what impact the book had on modern-day America. Now, wanting to be an overachiever, you decide to write a 5,000-word essay to really impress the Professor with your knowledge on transcendentalism and spend 8-hours writing the essay instead of the 3-hours your roommate took to write a 2,000-word essay. Since it took so much time to write your essay, you didn’t have enough time to study as much as you would have liked for your economics exam, which resulted in a C+. Then, you and your roommate both receive A’s for your essays. The point is that while you were putting in the extra effort on your essay, you were neglecting other areas that would have produced more value for the effort you put in.
In project management, they call this gold platting. The addition of any feature not considered in the original scope of the project. This is the addition of something that is considered nice, but the customer doesn’t consider it necessary. This results in wasted time, effort, and resources.
Project management’s mantra is accomplishment, not an attempt to achieve perfection. I’m not saying that project management is low-quality or half-assed. The goal of project management is to be as efficient and quick as possible in achieving the requirements laid out before you. If you are in college, your goal is to complete many classes to graduate; it isn’t to be perfect in one individual class or assignment.
If you can apply a concentrated effort to a task, your completion time will shrink. When you increase the size of the project to where multiple people are participating, your goal as a project manager becomes maximizing your resources and ensuring that everyone’s time is spent on the right thing.
Aligning the team to a single plan will ensure that the team is working on the right thing. There are no redundant efforts because there is clarity about who does what and when. This also ensures that the team is working on top stuff and not on lower-value priorities. For example, while working on a team project to write a business plan, one of the team members did the team didn’t recognize what they were supposed to accomplish, so they completed the competitive analysis instead of analyzing available resources. When the team regrouped, they were missing a major portion of the plan and had to piece together a subpar plan.
A great aspect of project management is its natural ability to achieve first-time quality. Remember back when your parents told you to clean your bedroom before you could go see your friends. You didn’t want to spend much time doing it, so you rushed through it throwing things under the bed and into the closet so that, on first look, it seemed clean. When your parents checked, they found that you didn’t really clean your room, and you had to start over again. All that time previously taken was wasted effort. The project processes have built-in checks to ensure that the work you do adheres to the guidelines set so that you don’t have to do it again.
Included in the project methodology is accounting for dependencies. These actions must be completed before another action starts. For example, when building a house, the cement foundation must pour before the house can be framed. If you framed a house and then poured the cement, the house would not hold; therefore, the frame was dependent on the cement. When working on projects, the process helps clarify what to accomplish first and helps the team understand how to keep working in step.
If you are reading this book, you have ambitions and goals that you want to accomplish. Project management helps you clarify what goals you want to accomplish in life. You are then able to put those goals on paper and determine if they are feasible or not. It also signifies your commitment to achieving those goals and helps keep you accountable to what you truly want to accomplish in life.
You are probably very familiar with team projects at this point in your academic career as well. You have more than likely experienced team slack in the process. Team slack is where some of the individuals don’t fully participate because they know someone else on the team will make up for their lack of effort. Project management helps clarify expectations for everyone on the team, ensuring that everyone knows who is responsible for what. Then, at the end of the project, a person could not hide or deflect how they let the entire team down because they were slacking.
This setup incorporates significant peer pressure to not let the team down. Created are interjection spots where the team can identify if someone is not producing, and encouragement or motivation can be applied. It can also highlight team members who run into issues and need help getting their activities completed. Project management is at its core a way to approach work in a smart and efficient way instead of just winging it and hoping it comes out okay.
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