Don’t forget the project management

PMP project managerI’ve been managing complicated international projects lately, with team members spread out in different locations in Europe, North America and Asia. This has meant lots of online meetings, a great deal of extra communication, and plenty of oversight. There is something to be said for managing projects where everyone on the project team is local – face time turns out to be extremely helpful when it comes to managing technical projects.

Throughout all of this extra administration and communication I’ve stumbled upon a “lesson learned” from managing international projects that I wanted to share here, which is this: don’t forget the project management!

So much administration, so little time

When managing difficult projects, all too often project and program managers get mired in all of the stuff that you have to do while working. I’ve created lots of PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets to demonstrate to various steering committees what’s been going on with the project, and have also been involved with many technical discussions regarding the functionality we’ve been building. I spend a lot of time responding to questions or resolving issues via email. But while doing this I’ve found that many of the actual project management tasks – the planning, the executing, and the monitoring and controlling, as per the PMI processes – have been getting harder to spend time performing. In a lot of ways the administration has been taking a front seat while the project management itself is in danger of falling by the wayside.

The project manager’s key role

As a project manager it’s always crucial to know what you are doing and when it’s going to be done, and then to track to that schedule. If you can’t do that, then you’re not managing projects… perhaps you’re serving as a project coordinator, but without knowing the what and when of your projects you really don’t have any control over them. While studying for the PMP certification exam I don’t recall reading much about “administrative processes” – those are things that project managers need to do by necessity, but shouldn’t constitute the entire role of the project manager. When they start to take over, it’s time to step back and ensure that while you’re performing these tasks, you’re also fulfilling your key role as a project manager.

Tips for sticking to the project management

Here are a few quick tips to help ensure that you stick to the project management:

  • Plan your time effectively… make sure to slot time in between the meetings you’re attending to keep track of your schedule. I personally make meeting requests with myself to ensure that certain important project management tasks are accomplished at specific times.
  • Meet with your team members, face to face or over the phone, and ensure that they are on track, or if any impediments are standing in their way.
  • If the administrative tasks are starting to take over, push back a little – make sure you’re fulfilling the role of the project manager and aren’t starting to take on other roles that may belong to someone else!
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