By Dave Wakeman
The holiday season has arrived—meaning a lot of socializing with family and friends. We’ll be asked about our lives, families and work. Yet, many of us project professionals have a hard time explaining project management and its value.
That’s partly because project management principles and skills have been so heavily tied to IT projects for so long. But in truth, project management is for everyone.
For many of us that have formal project management training, explaining the value of project management to every business or industry can sometimes feel complicated. It shouldn’t be–these principles are just wise business.
So here’s a cheat sheet to help explain the profession to anyone you encounter this holiday season.
Projects are built on the backs of planning and outcomes. Any successful holiday requires careful planning and preparation.
The same is true for any project.
While the project planning stage can be something that all of us wish went more quickly, the truth is that careful planning and attention to outcomes is wise in every organization.
Every organization could do a better job of spending time clearly defining a project or initiative around the outcomes they want to achieve, the resources they have, how much time they want to invest and the people that will be impacted.
If you don’t communicate, you don’t succeed. On the U.S. sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, there was once a character called “Drunk Uncle” who represented all the relatives you sought to avoid during the holidays.
We’ve probably all been there in some form:
- A holiday mixer where we can’t get away from a colleague we don’t like.
- A dinner party where the conversation was stagnant.
- An awkward moment at the family gathering where someone said something inappropriate.
What gets us through these moments? Our communication skills, that’s what.
To be a successful project manager, you need to be a great communicator. I’ve always fallen back on the old saying that I heard when I started out: Project management is 90 percent communication. I still think that’s the truth.
You can show this skill off during the holidays. During an awkward conversation, redirect the topic or reframe the controversial subject matter to something better. Bonus points if you are in a big crowd.
Being adaptable is key to long-term success. No matter the industry or sector, we hear a lot about the need to adapt to the market around us.
The funny thing is, as people with project management backgrounds, change is nothing new to us. In truth, managing change and keeping change in some semblance of order is almost as much of a key skill as communicating effectively. As change is inevitable and occurs more quickly, this skill isn’t just nice to have—it’s a necessity.
To put it in terms your family can understand, think about when you are trying to buy a gift that’s sold out. You don’t have long enough to order it online, and stores are closing in a few moments. All of a sudden Plan B and C start looking pretty good. It’s difficult, but necessary.
Or, illustrate the point with an example of how weather can impact holiday travel plans or how a delay in a work deadline can have you working through the holiday.
All of it takes flexibility.
The truth is that project management is life and as we head into the holidays, all the keys that you use as a project manager can help you get through the season too.
BTW, if you like this stuff and the stuff I usually post, I do a Sunday email that talks all about value, connection, and humans. You can get that for free by sending me an email at dave @ davewakeman.com