A Project Managed Life
By: Marly Fausz, Strategic Counselor
Can someone truly say they are a rock star at multitasking or are they just effective project managers and never thought of phrasing it that way?
As a marketing and public relations professional, “the ability to multitask” has always been on my resume, job descriptions and even the front door to my home (metaphorically speaking). My son was born in March of this year; I went back to work three weeks later managing anywhere from three to six clients at a time; and did I mention I am back at VCU in the Executive MBA program?
“How does she do it?” my colleagues, friends and family say, “…and she still has great hair?”
After my first MBA module on project management, I’ve discovered it’s not multitasking that allows me to meet client needs on time and on budget as well as have dinner on the table every night; it’s my ability to manage projects effectively.
What is a project?
According to Harvard Business School’s Project Management Manual a project is “a unique set of activities meant to produce a defined outcome within an established time frame using specific allocated resources.”
When you look at your daily activities, whether it’s executing tactics for various clients or something as simple as making dinners for the week, our lives are really a series of projects!
What is project management?
The manual also states the process is “a formal management discipline where projects are planned and executed according to a systematic, repeatable, and scalable process.
With that said, a project manager must create and manage a schedule for each project that effectively meets the scope within budget.
Guiding us through the Executive MBA project management module is our professor Vince Foley, Head of Field Service North America for Alstom Power. With his smooth Irish accent and comical way of calling well-known projects that went awry (like Boston’s Big Dig) “sexy,” he has made some excellent points on what it takes to be a great project manager:
“There’s a big difference between management and leadership,” Vince said. “An effective project manager must be a leader, have diplomacy skills by understanding relationships and how they work from management to peers, as well as knowledge of the product or service you’re selling.”
But why is a systematic approach needed for projects? Vince says during the course of a project at any given time, you must understand the start and finish, where you are with progress, and how you are performing.
How we roll.
At Commonwealth PR, we create annual plans for each client and set benchmarks to measure success along the way. Each month we meet, recognize milestones and discuss successes along with the progress for meeting those annual milestones. This helps our clients measure their return on investment and allows us to walk through what efforts are needed to reach upcoming goals.
Outside of client meetings, we go a step further and have internal status meetings (or “huddle ups”) twice a week. Each member of the agency is responsible for updating where we stand with all aspects of running projects and decisions are made as to what additional efforts are needed based on each client’s timeline.
It’s easy to let client “wants” interfere with client “needs” (to meet the scope). Our job is to be strategic and cross check efforts to assure we are on track to meet the goal(s) while being on time and on budget.
But what happens if you #fail?
Perhaps the client suddenly changes the scope or worse, something out of your control–like a major event steals your news spotlight –causing the schedule to be prolonged or a need for additions to the budget and now your deliverables will certainly not be met.
“It’s very important when things start to go to hell in a hand basket to have a recovery plan before you call the client,” Vince explains. “That way when you do call, you know what resources will be needed and how the recovery plan will be executed.”
Having your recovery plan in place will save your relationship with the client. Whether the event was in or out of your control, how you handle it is what matters most.
Have it all.
It’s an old adage that every project manager and consultant learns: “On time. On budget. What they asked for. Pick any two.” By keeping in mind milestones, what’s needed to get there and checking in often, I am confident you can meet your client’s needs on time and on budget—while still having great hair!