Project management is a discipline whose objective is to successfully take a project from initiation to completion. After several years in the field, I have learned that the first thing one should understand about project management is that there are many methodologies that claim to define it, or govern it, or otherwise be the authority on it. A student of project management benefits from a holistic approach.
Below is an outline of the traditional approach to project management, not based on the understanding that there is one methodology to learn from, but that there are many.
It is important to note that the definition of project management may change based on its application. A project designed to create a new widget in the aerospace industry might require the addition of stages, or variations on stages. Comparatively, if you were managing a project in your home to successfully replace the carpeting in the master bedroom, your application of project management would certainly be a bit different.
A successful project manager is able to adapt to diverse situations and only draws from those elements of project management methodologies that are relevant to the project at hand. Professionals who hold the title of project manager are regularly shifting their focus among different departments in an organization, which one month may be on operations and the next may be on IT; most of the time, however, many diverse projects are managed at one time and each requires its own approach to the project management discipline.
Project Management Stages
There are five stages involved in project management:
4. Monitoring and controlling
The successful completion of a project requires that all objectives have been met, and that in meeting those objectives, the project manager has adhered to the project charter.
The creation of a project charter is an essential first step in the initiation of a project--its purpose is to outline the vision, objectives, requirements, financial consequences, and project team. The success or failure of a project is often determined by the accuracy of the project charter--it acts as the foundation of every stage that follows.
Once the project charter has been finalized, stakeholders and project team members should gather, discuss the project charter, and make a decision to either approve or reject the project.
Once the project has been approved, the planning stage begins.
Whereas the project charter acts as the constitution of the project, the tasks created in the planning stage may require modification as the project moves along. Making any changes to the tasks of a project requires thorough communication with all project team members. Any fundamental changes proposed for the project charter must be discussed with and approved by project stakeholders.
During the planning stage, the team determines the guiding tasks and strategy that will either take the team to the project's end--to do this successfully, the project team must fully detail the tasks, timing, resources, and financial expectations of the project. It is highly recommended that a team create workflows to ensure the smooth execution of project tasks.
Project Management Workflow
A project management workflow is a visual strategy designed to complete an overall task or objective--it is comprised of a series of sub-tasks that are structured to achieve the most efficient outcome. A workflow is engineered to follow a specific path that places each sub-task at a desired interval and assigns responsibility for completion.
Sub-tasks can be easily diagrammed using workflow software, many of which provide rich tools to diagram sub-tasks, paths, and actions. Workflows empower the project manager with the ability to visually present the execution strategy of the project. As each task is completed, it is essential to measure and monitor each result, and make changes as needed.
Monitoring and controlling helps to identify flaws that would need to be ironed out prior to convening with stakeholders for the final stage: Completion.
The successful completion of a project entails the completion of the overall objective, the efficient use of budgeted resources, adherence to the project charter, and the meeting of the final deadline.
A careful and holistic approach to the practice of project management will ensure the best performance in whatever context it may be applied.