what-is-project-management

“Dad, what is Project Management?”. This was the question my son asked me tonight. It was a pretty good “smart” question for a child that doesn’t want to go to bed. So, he has been asking me something that he knows I will be happy to give him as a long answer.

I first thought to send him to mom, but I accepted his tricky question, struggled with it in my mind, and tried to answer him at a level he could understand:

“Project Management is about a Superman called the Project Manager whom mission is driving humanity towards change without having authority. He doesn’t always win, and along the road he faces tons of incredible obstacles and adventures.”

Suddenly, he got more interested (or seemed to be for not wanting to go to bed) and asked me again: “What are the super-powers of a Project Manager?”

I continued: “Ok, a Project Manager has the project management superpowers of Super Scope Vision, Super Budget Battery, and Super Schedule Speed, in order to make everyone happy and save the project world: the sponsor, the customer, the project team, and so on.”

“Dad, What is Project Management?”: The “Super Scope Vision” Project Management Superpower

Just as Superman has X-Ray Vision, a project manager needs to be able to see everything in a project. The Super Scope Vision allows him to see all the factors that may be involved. A project is about deliverables. If there are no deliverables, there is no project. And deliverables are defined in the Project Scope. So, deliverables equals scope.

But it is not enough with building it. It must be accepted. And getting acceptance is another Super-hero power. For getting acceptance, of course the first point is building a Quality product. If you don’t build a good quality product, we might as well be talking about a miracle.

If the Project Manager identifies anything in the project that may be wrong with his “Super Scope Vision”, he needs to activate an early mitigation action for redirecting it.

“Dad, What is Project Management?”: The “Super Budget Battery” Project Management Superpower

In this situation there is the “cost overrun” bad guy. The cost overrun bad guy is intent on draining and sapping the PM’s energy. The Project Manager will go head-to-head against the costs that were not planned in the project and that can compromise its budget health.

In order to win this fight the Project Manager needs the “Super Budget Battery” reserves. These reserves are called “contingency reserve” and have been calculated based on uncertainty and Risk Management. So, they have been established based on an analysis. Once these reserves have been consumed, the project will enter the red-zone battery mode. You are required to finish all your deliverables quickly before the sponsor auto-switches the project off without a successful finish.

Of course having a “Super Battery Budget” is not about having inflated estimations or having hidden reserves in your project. Instead is about super-efficient use of that project batteries energy.

“Dad, What is Project Management?”: The “Super Schedule Speed” Project Management Superpower

With this power the PM is able to outrun the time delay bad guy. If the project does not have enough velocity, the time delay bad guy will catch the Project Manager and usually he will hang on to him until the end the project.

A project is a long distance race, and the Project Manager as a runner will be required to pace himself while maintaining the lead ahead of the time delay bad guy.

The project manager needs to be able to quickly overcome unforeseen huddles. Sometimes along the way obstacles will arise in the Project Manager’s path. A good speed will provide him the impulse to jump over all these obstacles.

So, getting a good initial inertia in your project will make it easier to continue on schedule. But if you start badly, you will probably continue badly.  Take this into account when you plan your project. Make it easy to meet the first milestones, so that you can build up the “Super Schedule Speed” and confidence of your Project Team. Those initial project successes will provide you with that needed inertia for getting the whole Project success.

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