Have you ever managed a corporate event like a town hall meeting or assembled a task force to tackle challenges like an unexpected company-wide audit?

Sometimes you may have to tackle projects that don’t fall under your routine managerial tasks. These may not be daily assignments, but will still require your attention. Even if you’re not an event manager, your organization could ask you to manage an event and coordinate with members from other teams. To be able to do this, you’ll have to redirect your skills and professional resources to achieve the goal at hand.

These kinds of standalone projects usually need to be completed by following a set of predetermined guidelines such as the cost or budget of the project, the quality or standard and the amount of time within which you need to complete them. Project management can help you understand and address unexpected projects at work.

Project management involves the implementation of an action plan to determine the ‘what, who and how’ of a project for effective execution. Each project that you undertake can be determined using different strategies and methods. Let’s discuss the meaning of project management along with some of these strategies to understand how they can help you become an effective project manager.

What Is Project Management?

Project management is a process that involves predetermined steps to achieve specific goals within given constraints. For instance, if your organization is participating in a university job fair, you may be given the task of assembling a team of people representing different departments or preparing company brochures, holding mock interviews and distributing freebies like stationery to students.

Professional project managers are experts at creating and implementing an action plan but not all organizations employ them and expect their employees to take over the task. In such a case, you can equip yourself with the right skills for project management.

What Is A Project Management Framework?

A project management framework is a step-wise approach to executing solutions. The key factors in the process are ‘what’, ‘who’ and ‘how’. ‘What’ determines the deliverables and the timeframe for the project; ‘who’ determines the people involved; and, ‘how’ determines the monitoring and implementation of the project.

The ‘What’

The ‘what’ of project management can be best understood in terms of the scope, quality, time and cost of the project. There are ‘4 Whats’ of managing a project. Your goal is to get everyone on the same page about important factors about the project.

  1. The scope will help you define your goals clearly, evaluate your deliverables and see the big picture even as you tackle smaller tasks.

  2. The quality factor will help you assess the standards that you want to maintain for the project and how they’ll be impacted by the time and cost of the project.

  3. The time factor will help you work within a set timeframe with clearly-defined due dates that are communicated to each member of the team. A project is successful only if it’s completed within given timelines.

  4. The cost factor will determine your budget with anticipated expenses and a provision for unexpected expenses. This can impact the quality and time taken as well.

Let’s take an example. Imagine that you decide to improve the employee attendance tracker for your office. This project is not a routine task and requires inputs from different stakeholders. You’ll have to consider employee feedback, judge the cost of implementation and monitor the software for tweaks and upgrades. The goal is to implement the new software in 30 days within the budget decided by your finance team.

The ‘Who’

The ‘who’ of project management determines the key stakeholders who’ll participate in the process and will be impacted by its outcome. An easy way to decide who can help you with different tasks is by using the Harappa PACE framework. The PACE framework helps you to:

  • Pick the right person

  • Articulate responsibilities and goals

  • Create an accountability structure

  • Ensure they have the support to do their job

It’s important to delegate tasks based on the skills and expertise each member brings to the table. The task may be routine like data entry to keep track of your progress or may require attention and expertise for, say, creating a budget. As a project manager, it’ll be your responsibility to assign each task effectively keeping in mind the skills and ability of each member of the team.

Let’s take the same example of implementing a new employee attendance tracker. You can choose to assemble a team with members from within the organization or you can hire an external agency to do the job. You’ll have to assess what’s more feasible based on your time-cost constraint. In case you hire an external agency, you will have to ensure you get regular updates to stay on top of things.

The ‘How’

The ‘how’ of project management is the final step in the process and requires creating an action plan, which includes:

  • Prioritizing tasks on the basis of importance and urgency

  • Defining clear due dates for each task and member

  • Creating a schedule against which each task should be completed

  • Presenting the plan to the team to get everyone on the same page

It’s ideal to monitor the progress of your plan and make any changes, when possible, to avoid any mix-ups or setbacks. You can adopt a ‘hands-off and nose in’ approach to assess if everyone’s getting along with their tasks without micromanaging them. This way you can monitor the workflow without getting in the way. It’s important to give your team members some autonomy so that they can take a call and exercise their judgment.

In the employee tracker project example, the final step would be to communicate the plan, constraints and any other relevant information with everyone involved.

The Project Management Triangle

The project management triangle or ‘triple constraint’ is one of the challenges project managers face. The triangle of scope, time and cost is bound by the quality standards outlined in the project. The model is a representation of the constraints in project management.

For instance, if you want to revamp your company website, you would hire a web designer and discuss time, cost and goals with the designer. Now, if you want better quality, you may have to hire someone with more experience who would then charge you more money. This may skew your budget. So, the constraint is to maintain your quality in terms of your scope, time and cost. Each factor impacts the other and the challenge is to strike a balance to reach an optimal solution.

This is also known as the ‘Good-Cheap-Fast’ rule. Ideally, project managers pick any two factors over the third. However, to reach an effective solution, you should try to accommodate each factor with limited compromise.

Managing Risks In Project Management

An action plan is like a guidebook to measure progress and ensure that everything runs smoothly. But no matter how much you plan, there are always things that may not be under control. Unexpected challenges or setbacks may require you to modify your approach as you go along. For this, you need to be flexible so that you’re able to make changes when needed.

You don’t have to lose sight of the big picture or your ultimate goal, but you can still try to address each step of the process independently to mitigate errors. Say, you were planning to roll out a new office communication tool with its own audio-video call option in six months, to integrate the branches of your organization across the country. Suppose, due to a system error, a few branches were left out of the process. You would then need to reconfigure the software to account for the mistake. Regular communication and assessments could help minimize such errors.

Conclusion

Consider your target or goal, be mindful of your time-cost constraint and employ the best-suited employees for effective project management. It’s an important skill that you can develop with the right mindset. You have to focus on prioritizing your tasks so that you’re able to execute a solution efficiently. It’s no longer ‘business as usual’ in the modern workplace and this new way of working will help you keep up with the fast-paced business environment.

Many businesses and industries like automobiles, IT, finance, manufacturing and even small-scale offices have now adopted the project management framework to streamline their work. Although it’s primarily used for standalone assignments, the process of creating and monitoring an action plan can also be used to solve work-related problems. These can be strategies to withstand competition, keeping up with a dynamic business environment or accommodating changes in government policies.

Harappa Education’s Executing Solutions course will teach you how to implement project management to achieve your goals. You’ll learn more about some of the frameworks and concepts we’ve discussed and get insights from our expert faculty. The course will help you become an effective problem-solver at work with the right skills to navigate roadblocks and deal with crises.


Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about the topic related to the Solve habit such as the Importance of Decision Making, Ethical Decision Making, FMEA, Root Cause Analysis & Problem Solving in order to develop your skills.

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