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To understand project management is to recognise that change only happens when people get behind it. It's not enough for one person to stand on their box and demand a change, a change requires support. To be a great project manager, you need to be great with people - understanding their interests and adjusting to ensure that they are able to create what the project was expected to create, on time, on budget and to the satisfaction of the people who will make use of what was created.
Project management requires teams to first have a really clear understanding of 'what good looks like as an outcome' this is termed the 'scope' of the project and will be created by getting the right people together to discuss what is required. How to get there however, that's a different matter, and that requires a Project Manager to plan, think about what work is required to produce it, estimate the effort, think about the right order for those activities to be done and organise teams to be clear on what's required of them and when and play the quarterback throughout.
Think about organizing a party, a wedding or a game of football - everyone needs to know their role, and what needs to happen when - that's where the PM comes in.
The Project Manager doesn't need to be the expert in all of the things that need to happen, but they need to know who is, and who will do what, and connect all the dots to keep things moving forward smoothly.
There may be challenges along the way, some people might need convincing to play their part, or things may go wrong that are outside of your control - that's when the people skills come in, negotiating, adapting, influencing to ensure the plan stays on track.
A successful Project Manager is a people person that can work well with others to lead the team to success, they are able to communicate well to ensure tasks, responsibilities, deadlines and expectations are mutually understood, clarified, and managed. They can spot things that can go wrong and plan accordingly and as such they are a ‘safe pair of hands’ to keep the plan going smoothly.
What work is required to get to where we need to be? What could go wrong in that plan? If that were to happen, what could I do to limit the impact? How do I convince people that this is the right thing to do? These are just some of the questions a Project Manager will be thinking about and answering when they are driving change to deliver the project - on time, in full and to a high quality.
A common project management methodology is the Prince2 method which is very well-explained here.
The British Council Project Management Toolkit. Organisations will have different processes and methodologies for managing projects which can be confusing to those starting out in their careers. However, this toolkit explores the basics of project management and demystifies some of the complexity that surrounds it.
Failed or failing projects often appear in the news with large-scale government projects often hitting the headlines in particular. Learn what not to do!
Project Managers will often make use of strategic models and planing tools to better understand risk, stakeholders, project progression and a range of other activities related to their work. One such tool is the SWOT analysis which you can learn more about here.
Project Management has it's own language which can make the profession seem more complex than it is. This dictionary is comprehensive but has short, succinct definitions of a whole range of new words and concepts that you will come across as a project manager.