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PM 101

(December 5, 2008) Project Management is a term often thrown around in business, without a real understanding of what it is. So, let's start there, and then we'll take a look at the five phases of a project and how you can use Project Management to get results both at home and at work.

What is a Project?

In an earlier article in this series, we talked about life being a series of projects. If you think of your life as an entity, then everything you do, both at home and at work, is made up of processes and projects. Processes are how you get work done on a day-to-day repetitive basis - those activities that you do to keep your life operational. Projects are short-term efforts you do to meet your goals. Projects are how you can implement change in your life. Here are just a few reasons why you might pursue a project:
    1. Improve your day-to-day operational processes
        (like upgrading your computer or reconfiguring your workspace).

    2. Meet an important personal or work deadline.

    3. Make some improvements in your home,
        i.e. renovating a room or redesigning your kitchen.
What is Project Management?
    * A systematic approach to managing projects.

    * A way to generate consistent results when you undertake
        new initiatives.

    * A powerful personal and business tool that can transform your life.
You can use Project Management (PM) throughout your life to boost personal and collaborative productivity, and if you measure results, you'll find an impressive return on investment. The key to successful PM is to build a standardized system for doing Project Management that embeds best practices into how you manage your projects.

Defining a Project

A project is any activity that has a distinct deliverable and a clear beginning and end. When you follow a process to do your projects, you achieve greater performance. Project Management methods are easy to learn and can be applied with simple processes, web-based templates and office-automation tools.

All Projects Have Five Distinct Phases:
Initiation: At any point in time, most people and organizations have more projects than they have resources. During initiation, you have to prioritize the projects you will pursue, and identify who will help you get the work done.

Planning: Once you decide to pursue a project, the project manager and the project team develop the plans to create the final deliverables.

Execution: This is where the project team does the work to create the final deliverables of the project. It is the largest part of most projects, and it goes far better if adequate time is taken to properly plan the work of the project.

Control: This phase ensures the project is progressing as planned, accounts for any changes and allows for mid-course corrections to keep the project on schedule and in budget.

Closeout: During this phase, the final deliverable is accepted, and the project team documents lessons learned that can be of value on the next project.

Use Project Management to Show Value at Work

The problem in most companies is that there is no set process to do projects effectively and efficiently. From lost time to inconsistency, having no process for managing projects means poor performance. PM has the power to transform any business by building a process, tracking performance and helping you to build true best practices that work for you.

Five Ways PM Transforms Organizations

1. Develops Exponential Effectiveness: In most organizations, people work on cross-functional teams to complete projects. When people from different departments know and understand a common PM process to get their work done, they can start to work together without having to design how they are going to do it.

2. Empowers Individuals and Team Leaders: When there is a common, simple approach for PM, and the correct tools are available throughout the enterprise, people are empowered to reach their goals, together and individually.

3. Creates Institutional Memory: Industry-standard PM practices require a critical project closeout phase that collects lessons learned and gives your organization powerful historical knowledge from across the enterprise.

4. Realizes Return on Innovation: An easy-to-use PM methodology gives organizations a framework that makes it achievable for people to move from vision to action with a comprehensive project plan that supports their objectives.

5. Turns Information into Insight: You capture best practices and know what is and isn't working in your organization, giving you a competitive advantage by turning information into insight.

ROI: PM's Impact on the Bottom Line
If you've become a PM zealot, but need to get management on board, the first thing they want to hear about is the impact on the bottom-line. In their CHAOS Report, the Standish Group conservatively estimates that 20% of money spent on projects is wasted because companies don't have a consistent approach to PM. Other organizations have seen project performance improve by up to 50% for the first project and improvement can continue for each new project if the enterprise offers ongoing support with PM tools.

Your PM Power Checklist
    1. Know the business drivers that your management team is focused on so you can connect your Return on Investment (ROI) to what they care about.

    2. Use a simple and proven approach such as Cheetah PM to align the efforts of project teams. If you come up with a complex way to approach PM, it won't stick in your organization.

    3. Have people at every level of the organization learn the skills needed to effectively use PM to improve their value to the organization.

    4. Get big wins early on by leading with parts of the organization that have the least skills in Project Management and the most to gain by using a simple PM approach.

    5. Empower people with tools for successful PM:
      * Use a simple and effective tool such as MS Project for project scheduling and tracking.

      * Measure the effectiveness of your project managers throughout the project by using a tool such as PM Scorecards.
Put PM to Work for You
Whether at home or at work, you can put the basics of PM to work for you. The returns you'll see are more than worth the effort because once you have a successful way to approach projects, you have a tool that will help you throughout your life!

By Michelle LaBrosse, PMP¨, Founder, Chief Cheetah, Cheetah Learning

Project Management Series:
  • The Project Called Life
  • Power of Continuity
  • PM 101

  • About the Author
    Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the public.

    Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 30,000 people have become 'Cheetahs' using Cheetah Learning's innovative Project Management and accelerated learning techniques.

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