How can project management improve an organization's success?
An organization is only as successful as its teams. Companies that work on projects – which covers most businesses regardless of size or sector – should be adopting a project management mindset to help their teams improve their performance. We are all familiar with some level of project management as it crops up all the time, even in our daily lives. However, teams cannot constantly operate at their optimum effectiveness and efficiency. This has implications for both the business and the degree of contentment and engagement employees feel.
Sometimes your team might need a mindset shift to help them work better and achieve more. Making the project management mindset a part of your day-to-day collaborative process will set your teams apart and enable them to get things done more quickly and efficiently.
How is project management present in our daily lives?
You may or may not be surprised to know that project management is in our daily lives in various ways. You will probably have organised a birthday party or a house renovation project, booked a vacation or bought a new car.
Some people approach these things as ‘projects’, with spreadsheets, budgets, and meticulous attention to detail. Others will just muddle their way through and hope for the best. It’s probably fair to say that the majority of carefully planned projects will be more successful – and less stressful - than those that are made up as they go along.
And if you tend to fly by the seat of your pants, the chances are you are still using some project management principles, or you would never achieve anything!
Whatever you are planning in your personal life, project management principles help you ensure your tasks are completed. Whether or not they are completed efficiently and effectively will depend on how well you are using these principles. Project management is essentially the process of planning, executing, controlling, and finishing projects to achieve the specific goals and objectives related to them.
One of the ways we see project management in our daily lives is through any planning we do. Whenever we have a project or task to complete, we need to plan and organize our time and resources effectively to make sure we achieve the goal.
A good example is a family vacation. You effectively create a timeline for your project and set deadlines for when certain things need to happen. For example, you will need to decide when and where you want to go on vacation. When you know at least one these things you can start looking.
Firstly, you need to ensure you have the time and the financial means required. You might need to investigate where you can go depending on the dates you have available, the amount of money you can spend, and your personal preferences. That might need some planning, either by your or another family member. Perhaps you can delegate. Then you would be the project manager.
Executing your project
For a vacation there is a myriad of other things that might need arranging, depending on your circumstances. You might need to book time off work or find someone to cover for you. Maybe you need someone to mind your house, kids, or pets. Perhaps you have other commitments you will have to cancel or make alternative arrangements for while you are away.
You might need access to specific things during your holiday which might require researching or further planning. You will need to ensure that everything is done in a timely fashion. If you are planning to take your family on an around-the-world trip you will probably need a long lead time: some people take years to plan and execute this sort of vacation.
If you intend to camp locally with your partner regardless of the weather, you are more likely to be able to organize and execute this in a matter of days or weeks. In both cases there are things you will need to do at certain times to execute the project well. You might need to buy new clothes, get your passport renewed, or organise transportation to the airport, for example.
Having full control over a project is an important aspect of project management. You will need to make sure you monitor its progress as it moves along. You will have to identify any issues or risks so you can take action to keep the project on track.
For example, if you have asked a professional to help you book your vacation, you will need to make sure they give you the information they have promised, when they have promised. Otherwise you might find the flights are full or the hotel has not been booked. You need to ensure you are keeping to the budget you had initially stipulated, or you may find your costs are adding up and you have no way of paying for the vacation you have now committed to.
Closing your project
Finally, closing your project – going on the vacation you have booked - is obviously an important aspect of project management. You can then evaluate the success of your project and identify any lessons learnt.
For example, you might decide that you made a poor choice with the travel agent or vacation company you chose and make a note to use a different one based on different criteria next time. Perhaps your destination was ideal and now you know you would like to travel there again. Maybe you should have spent more and upgraded your hotel room: whatever it is you learn from this project you can apply it to the next.
You might have just thought about it as organizing a vacation but to give it a more formal title you are project managing. And your approach and how well you do it is likely to determine your satisfaction with the outcome.
What is a project management mindset?
The project management mindset is viewing a task or a project as an opportunity to ensure you are doing something to the best of your ability, in a methodical way, and that takes all eventualities into account. You will need to be organized, have good time management skills, and be able to prioritize tasks. It involves a set of attitudes and behaviors that will help project managers and team members to be more effective.
A project management mindset focuses on achieving results and meeting the goals that have been specified for the project. Project managers will need to prioritize tasks and make decisions based on what will help them achieve these desired outcomes.
This means being proactive and anticipating any potential issues or risks that might occur. A person with a project management mindset will monitor progress to ensure the project stays on track and take steps to mitigate any risks identified before they become a problem.
Organization and planning are key. Detailed plans will help establish timelines and allow for resources to be allocated effectively. Collaboration and teamwork are also a vital component of effective project management. Project managers and team members need to be able to work closely both with each other and stakeholders external to the team to ensure everyone is on track and working towards the same goal.
This may require a degree of flexibility and adaptability: there are always unexpected surprises along the way, particularly if new information or changing circumstances require a change of tack.
The concept of continuous improvement is an important component of the project management mindset, and this can come into play both during and after a project. Project managers should regularly evaluate progress, identify any areas for improvement, and implement any necessary changes to optimize the project outcomes.
After all, you do not want to be learning the same lesson every time you have a new project: you should take what you have learnt and use it to your advantage for the next one.
By adopting a project management mindset, project managers can work more effectively to achieve the desired outcomes for the project and their teams. They can help to ensure that their teams are working together efficiently towards the same end goal. Team members will be better equipped to play their part and create a harmonious, effective, and efficient team together.
How does a project management mindset improve performance and efficiency?
We have already looked at an example of project management in our everyday lives. The success – or not – of your vacation will be majorly dependent on the planning and execution that has gone into it.
Without a project management mindset, you might be lucky once or twice and end up on a great vacation without really trying. It is fair to say, however, that at some point your luck is likely to run out. And we have all had those types of vacations!
The same goes for other events in daily life: how many parties have you been to where you were expecting food to be served and there wasn’t any - or vice versa - because it wasn’t communicated properly to you? Or the entertainment didn’t show up because they had been booked for a different date and nobody thought to check? Maybe you have friends like this. The same is true in business.
While we expect every business to be run professionally and without wasting any time, money, or effort, this is sadly not the case. There is room for a lot of improvement. Without proper project management, the jobs and sums at risk just get larger.
The Garden Bridge: an example of poor project management
A prime example of poor project management leading to disaster is the so-called Garden Bridge project in London, UK. The proposed Garden Bridge, to be planted with numerous plants and trees, would span the River Thames as a memorial to Princess Diana who died in 1997. Planning permission for the ‘floating paradise’ was granted to the trust in charge in 2014.
The project cost £53.5 million (including £40 million of public money) and yet no bridge was ever built. £9.5 million was paid to the bridge designers, and the contract to build it was £21 million. Preparatory work was started before the land necessary had even been acquired. The total cost of the project had been set at £140 million but later had to be revised to £185 million – and a subsequent review found that even this was going to be way off the mark.
At this point, the project was pulled. The trust had even spent £161,000 on a website and £417,000 on a gala dinner! The project managers had no control over costs or even reality – who starts on a construction project without already owning the land you need to build it on?
Why do all team members need a project management mindset?
A team is only as strong as its weakest link. If everyone is on board and understands the importance of a project management mindset, you are more likely to succeed. With a mindset change, you set your teams up for success.
On a personal level, taking the time and effort to think through and properly plan a vacation can lead to a better experience: it might not be the most expensive thing to waste money on but why would you risk it? It’s the same in business but the numbers are much bigger, and so is the potential for disaster. No one can afford to waste millions of dollars.
Helping your teams with a project management mindset
There are various online tools available to project teams to aid with project management. We offer resources that help facilitate and optimize modern teamwork to help project teams become more productive.
Teamwork and collaboration in workshops and meetings can be improved with an online whiteboard and all its associated tools. Make your project management team more efficient by giving them the tools they need. Why not check out our resources to find out more?