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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4 Responses to “Don’t forget the project management”

  1. I feel such administrative tasks come under operational part of a project. A project manager should delegate most of these tasks to either other departments or to team members. Managing the whole show is really a big task.

  2. Hi Himanshu, thanks for your thoughts!

    I agree with your analysis – many of the operational tasks that project managers end up taking on should be delegated. Not only that, but the day-to-day operational aspects of the project should be as well planned for as possible; although it’s difficult to plan out much of the day-to-day “stuff” that makes up project work, it definitely is work that occurs during project execution and should be accounted for.

    Often only those tasks that lead to deliverables are properly planned, while all of the other “stuff” that ends up popping up on a project catches project teams unawares. Planning for the “stuff” can help to keep a project on track.

    Apologies for my blatant overuse of “quotation marks”!

  3. I surely agree to your point. Mainly deliverable portion of a project is planned and many a times unplanned work takes up most of the time. Best part of planning is that managing unplanned tasks becomes easier.

  4. Thanks Himanshu! Agreed that the time spent planning – that may be quite lengthy! – does make your life easier as you proceed with the project.

    I hope all is well with you, and best of luck with your own project management endeavors.

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About the Author

Website: Brian Crawford
I'm a Canadian and British dual citizen with an internationally-focused American MBA and an MS in International Project Management from a French business school. I am PMP, ScrumMaster, and ITIL Foundation certified. I'm particularly into travel, writing, and learning about different languages and cultures.