A Project Manager is the person in charge of the planning and execution of a particular project. A project typically produces a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end. It is undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, to bring about beneficial change or added value.
Large enterprise and corporate organisations run hundreds of projects with a dedicated Project Management function. The Project Managers have a project methodology to guide them on a consistent way of delivering projects; they have peers to seek guidance and a manager who has years of experience in project delivery who can coach and mentor them.
For start-ups, small to medium enterprises and organisations, this would be a luxury. These organisations have small teams that often wear multiple hats to run the business and having dedicated project managers would be rare. Initiating and delivering projects would often be reliant on existing team members.
Here is a story about Joanne. Joanne works for a small organisation. Her role is office administrator but she also has other back office functions to ensure smooth running of day-to-day activities. The management team has identified Joanne as a good candidate for running a new project within the organisation as she understands the end-to-end operational processes and knows her way around the IT systems. Joanne has been called into her manager’s office and been advised of the good news that she is now leading and managing this project. The conversation with her manager lasted 5 minutes and she has now been asked to “make it happen”. Joanne has now unexpectedly been given the role of Project Manager.
Have you ever been in Joanne’s shoes and become the “Accidental Project Manager”? If you have, don’t panic, below are some tips to guide you on your journey as a Project Manager.
1) Clarify stakeholders, roles and expectations
It is important to follow up a conversation with your Manager to understand who you will be working with as these people may be different to the people you deal with in your day to day role.
– Who is the Project Sponsor?
The Sponsor is the person responsible for the project’s business case, benefits of completing the project and provides the funding for the project. This person articulates the vision and end goal of completing the project. The Sponsor supports the project manager and makes decisions to ensure the end goal is met whilst navigating issues and risks experienced during the project.
– Who are the Project stakeholders involved in the project and why are they critical to the role?
It is likely that some people will already be identified as key stakeholders who will play an important role throughout the project. They are generally subject matter experts in their area and need to be consulted to input to the overall solution. There may be other people that need to be informed of the outcomes so they can prepare themselves for the change.
– What is the Sponsor’s expectation of your role as Project Manager?
Once your Sponsor has been confirmed, it is always good to meet with them to clarify expectations of how you will work together and what they expect to see from you on a regular basis so they know the project is on track.
2) Understand the Scope
The scope outlines what needs to be delivered for the project. It is the upfront project planning activity that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project goals, deliverables, tasks, costs, deadlines, exclusions and assumptions. This forms the basis of what is to be delivered, how it will be delivered, who will be involved, how much and how long it will take.
Your Sponsor and/or Manager should have a high level view of this to point you in the right direction. They should also have identified the project team members that will execute the project activities.
3) Engage your project team
Your role as the Project Manager is to bring the team together, communicate the project end goal, do not assume they already know. Ensure they understand and agree to their role on the project. You will need your team members to assist to create, ratify and agree the project plan and timeline, as they will be completing the work. Make sure they understand your role and the role of the Sponsor as this is key; you are there to direct, resolve issues and help them complete their task within the project as per agreed timelines.
4) Delivering the project
If your organisation does not have a formal project methodology or other project managers that you can turn to for guidance and support, there are multiple resources that can be accessed to assist you on your journey.
Project Management methodology provides a method for managing and delivering projects within a clearly defined framework with templates you can leverage.
There are multiple best practice project methodologies available such as “Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)” or “Prince2”.
Here are some useful links that you can refer to which will provide guidance:
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, set one up! LinkedIn has a large community of professionals in all industries that you can easily connect with. Join a number of LinkedIn groups and spend some time digesting their discussions. You can start with Project Management Institute, Project Manager Community – Best Group for Project Management and The Project Manager Network – #1 Group for Project Managers. There are of course other groups you can explore. The benefit of joining these groups is that you have access to people who work in the project management profession and you can connect or reach out to them if they are in the industry or geographical location you are working in.
Seek a Mentor
I highly recommend that anyone starting out as a Project Manager seek a mentor who can help you on your journey.
Considerations in seeking a mentor:
- Find someone you aspire to be; similar strengths and skills you want to emulate
- Study the person; look at their digital profile (LinkedIn, Twitter)
- Connect with the person; see if there is a good fit and if they are open to mentoring
Where to find a mentor:
- Look within your industry, ask your professional network, there may be acquaintance you know
- LinkedIn can also be a good source to find a mentor
- Search via their role title (i.e. Senior Project Manager, Project Director, Program Manager, Head of Project Delivery), look at the profile, background and recommendations. A number of professionals will identify if they are open to mentoring others
- Search for project management mentoring groups or leverage groups you have joined and ask the question if anyone in the group is open to mentoring.
So if you are about to start your “Accidental Project Manager” role, don’t panic, start with the basics and you will be well on your way…