Project Management From Scratch

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Being asked to project manage from scratch is an ordeal. When a company has a desire to improve efficiency and operate from a data driven standpoint, they will turn to project management if they aren’t there. Here’s a short list of what to consider:

1) What methodology will you use?

If you walk in to software development or to goods manufacturing, this question has a built-in answer. But when the company’s product lies somewhere in that charcoal-colored area between the two, that creates a charcoal-colored answer to this question. You have to spend time finding out what the pain points are in the company from past projects. Those pain points will be the opposite side of the direction you need to go. For instance, let’s say the company has taken on several projects but had trouble finishing them, then chances are you want to stay away from Agile or anything the like. However, the plus of not being in a black and white situation is that while you may start with a certain way to operate in mind, some processes and methods can be morphed to fit progress.

2) Company Culture

I will absolutely not kid you on this. Having been several places that are clearly a non-project-based atmosphere, you stand an uphill battle whether you want to infuse a few principles of project management, or if the goal is to absolutely convert the company to being project-based. The key is two-fold. One, you must take the time to understand the existing company culture. You may be in a place where you can come out of the gate barking orders. Or, you maybe some place that you have to walk on eggshells. Hopefully you are somewhere between those two extremes. A program of project management must be able to fit the existing culture before it can ever be the other way around.

3) Win Over the Mid-Levels

Let’s face it. If you’re part of a conversion to being a project-based company as part of a large company, you are probably one of several in a project management office. The head of the PMO will have been given marching orders from the CEO and/or the COO. They will then develop the approach, and disseminate the plans through all the other project managers in the PMO. It’s a machine. When you are the lone project manager leading conversion efforts in a small to medium company, this is a different story. You’ve likely been told “we want you to manage projects” and then set to open pasture. Then, you must devise your approaches and begun to implement. The key to a winning effort in this case is making it a collaborative effort. Project Managers are not dictators. They are a combination of analyst and quality specialist. So a successful move to being a project-based company will require that project manager win over the other mid-level managers to the thoughts behind and the needs of running project management, while clearly leaving the details of how to implement it to those other mid-levels. Make sure they know you’re not telling them how to do their job.

Most of all, the key is patience when doing project management from scratch. It will not go right the first, second, or even third time. But when it does go right, you’ll be ready to celebrate and do it again.

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