The power of definitions: learning project management

Over the past few months, I’ve been taking the Google Project Management certificate on Coursera. It was only in the last year that I realized a lot of the work I do could be classified as project management. I began to wonder if it would be helpful to learn more about the fundamentals of project management; fill in the gaps from learning by experience.

I enjoy blogging about classes I’m taking. It helps me to synthesize what I’m learning. I also think it is an excellent reminder that it’s okay to be a beginner over and over again. With that in mind, I’m capturing some of my highlights from this course. They may be basic concepts, but sometimes those are the most powerful.

Defining project management

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet the project requirements and achieve the desired outcome.

– From the Google Project Management certificate

A project is a temporary endeavor with a clear beginning and end. It includes a series of related tasks that typically result in one final deliverable. A project manager is someone who manages projects.

Seems obvious, right?

Project management is more than just managing a collection of things. It is applying specific methodologies toward researching, scoping, and defining a project. Additionally, a project isn’t permanent. One of a project manager’s responsibilities is deciding how you know when a project has started and, more importantly, when it has finished.

Why is this powerful? I’ve started programs that operated as a project initially. In hindsight, I’d argue the actual project I was working on was actually a program launch. I defined the program, prepared to open it to others, and, eventually, launched it. What I didn’t account for was what came after the launch: ongoing management and operations for the program. 

This simple idea has prompted me to ask myself better questions. How do I know when the project has started? How do I know when it has ended? Consistently defining the boundaries of a project helps ensure I understand how much time I need to dedicate to the project. As a result, I also know how much time I have to dedicate to other tasks without entering an infinite loop of never-ending projects.

The scope of a project manager

Managing a project typically involves defining the project, prioritizing tasks, and communicating both with team members and stakeholders, or those invested in the project. Notably, what’s not included is: doing and knowing All the Things.

When talking about project management, I typically picture more traditional, hierarchical organizations. Yet, that doesn’t capture the full diversity of where project management concepts are used. For me, using project management concepts in community-driven projects looks very different. In this environment, progress outweighs deadlines and collaboration outweighs the end-result. There are still goals, but go together if you want to go far, right?

Why is this impactful? Asking myself things like What can I do today to help move this forward? has been a helpful practice for better framing my work. It reminds me that my role in any project is limited. There are so many ways to collaborate, and you cannot predict the path a project will take with such diverse stakeholders. And that’s precisely the point.

Leave your two cents here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: