Project Management
with Microsoft Project

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Some of the pitfalls of ad hoc management

Everyone does projects. The idea that all it takes to be successful is technical knowledge and lots of intensive hard work leads to unnecessary stress, avoidable rework, unnecessary conflicts and a greater chance of failure.

As fun and exciting as it might be, managing in an ad hoc, seat-of-the-pants, shoot-from-the-hip way is not the most effective way when it comes to managing projects. That is because projects often cannot be planned and carried out entirely from the top of your head. When you experience being overwhelmed, or your outcomes are not as good as they could have been, it may be time for managing in a more structured and thoughtful way.

For example, when you start thinking about moving an office, you probably realize that it can be quite complex. There are many dependencies, such as if you committed to be out of the current space by a certain date, you have to make sure you can go somewhere, ideally to your new space. If the new space is not ready, you have to find another temporary place and/or storage. If you cannot find a mover or schedule phone and other installations, you may need to renegotiate the exit date. If the new space is not entirely ready, you need to carefully plan where and how people will operate. As you can see, there is a lot of complexity in even a simple move. This is a project. Managing it like a project and in the right way will improve your chances for success. Projects require a disciplined yet flexible approach.

Not managing projects the right way leads to unnecessary rework and costs, delays, unsatisfied customers and hostile relationships. Think about the times that you or your customers have been impacted by late delivery of project results or by having to do unnecessary rework or by having yourself and others affected by confusion and chaos that could have been avoided by better project planning and control. Think about the time, effort and money that could have been saved. Think about the relations that were disrupted, in some cases irreparably so. In the unlikely case that you have no personal experience, think about high profile projects like the Challenger space shuttle in which poor project management practices led to loss of life or the “Big Dig” in Boston in which poor project planning, communications or control resulted in huge costs and delivery delays.

Managing projects well increases the probability of success and leads to better results, lower costs, less effort, shorter time, better relationships and the ability to continuously improve performance across multiple projects. At the same time, it is necessary to not over manage. Too much of anything is counter productive. In managing projects, the right balance between discipline and flexibility is best.

Most projects are managed by people who are drafted because they have a combination of being available, have subject matter expertise, and are natural coordinators and/or good communicators. Many of these incidental project managers do a great job despite having had little or no training in project management. That is because much of project management is good common sense and because good project managers and performers combine acts of heroism, the acceptance of delays and other shortfalls, good leadership and management skills and the ability to adapt well in moment to moment project performance.

Imagine how much better they might be with a more solid foundation.


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