Before we wrap up this project management series, let’s review that which we’ve learned so far. The introductory blog, P is for Project, outlined five important attributes, the Five Ps if you will, of project management – prepared, precise, proactive, perseverance, and perpetual learning. The subsequent installations expounded upon each of these. When considered individually, these characteristics are incredibly important in their own right, but they are also related and interconnected. This final post addresses the final piece of the puzzle, the importance of learning perpetually.
P is for Perpetual Learning
It goes without saying that, as we move through life, we are continuously learning and growing and adapting in both our personal and professional lives. This is also critical in project management. Despite the fact that most projects have similarities and common threads, each is also unique. Even projects which look similar on the surface, with the same objective, are rarely identical in planning or implementation. In order to stay current, relevant, and effective, PMs must be learning constantly.
Project Managers must not only have the essential industry-independent skills, but they must also quickly be able to gain a working knowledge of the particular industry in which their current project resides. For example, if one is managing a software development project, they will want to know something about programming concepts. Now, to be clear, PMs don’t need to be experts in every field. Can you imagine? The intricate level knowledge can be left to the team members who are doing the technical work and are highly educated in their respective fields. PMs however, do need to have a basic understanding and a foundation of information so that they are able to communicate and facilitate conversations between the client and the technical side as well as the ability to understand that conversation and maintain the confidence of the client. So how can one perpetually learn and obtain the basic knowledge that they need to lead a successful project when the topic at hand is unfamiliar?
Google it. These days, it’s not nearly as difficult as it used to be to research just about any topic you can name. Do you remember the days of libraries, card catalogs, and gilded-page encyclopedia sets? Well, these days we have access to the most fantastic learning opportunity in history: the internet. Now many of us still love libraries, the smell of books and the tangible quiet is a source of much nostalgia and we’d never stoop to insult their efficacy. In fact, if you prefer a little more of an old school approach, the local library is the place for you. But for those of us who have busy schedules and maybe appreciate quicker access to information, there’s always your friendly neighborhood search engine. For folks newer to internet research, there are several websites with tips and tricks on how to refine your search to maximize your productive time.
Pay attention to the expert. In addition to doing your homework, it is important to listen intelligently when interacting with the client during the initial stages of the project and attempt to internalize some of the concepts and jargon. Speak regularly to the member(s) of your team with the necessary technical expertise and request frequent updates. It’s important that more than one person of the technical team be involved. Multiple trusted points of view are extremely valuable.
Lessons learned. As any project draws to a close, it’s not a bad idea to review the process and everything that you learned. Regardless of success or failure, you will learn something. What worked well with the project? What would you have done differently? What did you learn about a particular niche industry that you didn’t know before? Documenting your thoughts could be exceedingly valuable to reference in the future. It could be several years, but it’s always possible that a similar project could present itself. And, if a client was happy with your work, they could be returning to you with another project. If enough time has lapsed though, it is entirely possible that you have forgotten all that you learned. If you have notes to which you can refer, it could jog your memory and save much time in not duplicating your research from the past. Perpetual learning is a good practice in life. In project management, it is essential.
The PM role requires skill and planning, an ability to forecast and adapt, communication, confidence, attention to detail, organization, and both the desire and ability to coach as well as to learn. All of these concepts play a part in the Five Ps – prepared, precise, proactive, perseverance, and perpetual learning. We hope that this series has been helpful in providing a foundation for successful project managers. Just remember: it can be done and you can be the one to do it.