17.12.10

How to become a Project Manager in 6 steps

Guerilla Project Management blog will have a quick jump into project management for everybody. Here are the 6 steps of the journey (that does not mean the journey isn't long, difficult - or fun for that matter):

1. Decide this is who you want to be: Project Management comes with power, satisfaction, but also with responsibility and stress that can be overwhelming. Are you ready to give up comfort for the opportunity of going that path? For instance, I had a long period during which the stress of this job was unbearable and it was only about three years ago that I was able to overcome the stress and was able to fully enjoy the journey.

2. Understand your level of readiness; being technically outstanding is not a criteria for Project Management. You need to assess your self in term of business knowledge, decision making, problem solving and attitude. This will help you understand how much practice you need before actually being able to venture in conducting a real project. When I recruit Project Managers, I look for enough technical knowledge to make them able to speak to the team and appreciate more a "can-do" attitude, a structured speech, results orientation and a sense of urgency. That is, "I am hiring Project Managers with attitude!"

3. Read this book. Now evaluate it. Do you feel it is real? Do you recognize yourself or your organization in the situations described there? Do you see how things can be improved based on the book? If so, I believe you do have the eye for noticing Project Management issues, which are usually "soft" and cannot be easily verbalized. Whenever I read a chapter of this book, although I have read it several times, I immediately compare it with recent situations or projects and get inspired on how to improve things.

4. Choose a project on which to experiment. If you are not in charge with a project at work, choose a personal project such as a home project or a school project. However, choose the best against the following criteria:
  • a complex project (with several parts that need to work together) - will help on building integration skills
  • a project with a client - will help on building client and scope management skills
  • a project that involved spending money on external resources such as other people's labour - will help on planning, financial and people skills
  • a project that does not have an aggressive schedule - will help on giving you the time for applying all the theorethical concepts. However, you need to have some deadline!
Some good examples of off-work projects are school consultancy projects or starting your own trial business.

5. Go through the book again, but this time try to apply the theorethical concepts in the chosen project. Do the planning, the staffing, the charter, whatever notions are presented in the book, in a waterfall mode (that is - first plan, then start executing, then monitor progress, then finalize the activities), in order to accomodate yourself with the concepts and to create your own techniques on PM tasks.

6. Choose a second project with the same criteria as before, but this time with an aggressive schedule. Work on doing as much as possible in parallel, work in iterations, delivering partial results and trading between time and money. A good example is remodeling your home, while you live in it. You need to do it fast, you have several people that need to work in parallel; sometimes there will be rework if you parallelize remodeling tasks. You need to have one bedroom and bathroom ready so that you have a place to sleep, but you can live without using the kitchen for a while - of course eating out will cost you extra. This kind of decisions and tradings are key to good project management in real projects.

If you scored good at point 2 and 3, chances are you can do steps 4-5-6 in just one. However, in my opinion, Project Managers that can only do tasks 4-5 but do not reach task 6 are not really ready to conduct a project.

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