When first trained in project management, the skills I learned complemented the technical knowledge I needed at that time to function as an engineer.
However, I eventually realized that project management techniques are useful for people anywhere in a business: things like understanding objectives, the diligence in clarifying what needs to happen and keeping documentation in order are important elements to perform well in any environment.
Project management methods – their universal value
The value of a project management “way of thinking” became even clearer to me when I started training people in PRINCE2®: for example, explaining how corporate strategy generates mandates and how this is then transformed into a business case during the starting up process. This showed me that everyone in the company needed a method to ensure their work is aligned with business strategy, is viable and worthwhile.
Take the idea of setting objectives. People may have learned about the SMART model for setting objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) but, once it is time to execute an objective, this is often forgotten. Time has passed and the environment may have changed. However, using project management discipline ensures you always check the work mandate is still there, question whether a piece of work remains viable and whether it will deliver the desired benefits.
Understanding the starting up phase within project management and applying it to any activity emphasizes the importance of asking vital questions before moving on such as: do I have the time, the resources and the people to support my objective?
Areas of improvement for everyone
Non-project managers can adopt methods like PRINCE2 to improve their performance, both for themselves and their organization, for example, by mastering how to set and control tolerances. If you cannot complete your work within its agreed cost, time and scope, the problem needs escalating before you try to make a decision yourself. If it’s necessary to reduce scope to deliver the project on time – which might involve retaining some benefits but dropping others – this needs discussion and agreement with your boss.
Progress reporting as in PRINCE2 is another method that can be adopted across the business. An HR colleague I trained in project management skills embraced the use of checkpoint and highlight reports to track and communicate milestones and benefits. Maintaining these on a single presentation slide prompted other colleagues to comment on the effectiveness of this method. The ability to present project ideas and timing in the right way, ultimately, invited the best input from her boss and enabled conversations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Embedding methods – the benefits
Embracing the PRINCE2 principle of managing by exception teach the teams to become comfortable with the uncomfortable issues that come up in projects; ensuring you discuss issues you can’t solve alone with your team to help find better solutions; the process of escalating problems to your boss (and your boss’ boss) secures their involvement in decisions and providing direction.
Leading people in the context of a project also helps collaboration between functions, as clear roles and responsibilities for each activity are set and communicated.
When project management methods are used throughout organizations, work becomes more efficient, people are able to do more and create tangible improvements. Individuals are empowered and they see more clearly how their work links to the company’s objectives, strategy and, in turn, to their objectives.