Make project management cool

November 2011 » Columns » PROJECT MANAGEMENT INSIGHTS
Christine Brack, PMP

Because we do it for a living, it's easy to think of project management as boring, routine work.

But think about it; everything in the world that is truly cool – the Matrix movies (the first one at least), iPods, the Golden Gate Bridge – was, at some point, a project. Therefore, project management is potentially the coolest trade of all. It all depends on what we're working on and how we view our role.

"Cool" is often used to describe an attitude, behavior, or appearance. It's easy-going, it's hip, it's trendy, it's a mindset. Whether we want to admit it or not, we're attracted to cool because cool makes it look easy, and we want to be cool – or at least we want to get as close to it as possible.

Shouldn't your projects, then, be more composed and more harmonious? Why can't great project management be an attitude we convey? Can your firm have a cool, calm, and collected approach to project management?

We see the alternative every day. Being "uncool" doesn't help anyone. How much stress do we endure because we lack information or are in a constant state of hurry? How much profit is eaten up by rework? How frustrating is it to work with teams that have a complete lack of cooperation and accountability? What's the burnout level?

Read this and other project management columns at www.aectechstrategies.com/project-management.html.


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Here's how to make project management cool in your firm:

Pledge to be cool
Commit to three simple rules: 1) have an open mind; 2) don't be afraid of cool; and 3) don't be half-cool – go all in or go home.

Undo the uncool
You can't just throw cool things at project management and expect it to transform into greatness. To start, you have to undo the uncool – whatever form that may take. Clean out unnecessary processes, get rid of disruptive team members, and rework structural issues that get in the way of thoughtful change.

Engagement is cool
The happiest and most successful project managers will tell you the importance of engagement. Sharing information rather than hiding it, establishing a vision rather than seeing the project as just work, bestowing trust on the team – these things aren't hard, but they go a long way. As a member of a team or as the project manager, cool is having a voice, being given a chance, and contributing to a solution.

Teamwork is cool
One of the coolest experiences I ever had was with an architecture firm conducting a project management training session for their team. They had their subconsultants there too. Not only did they learn new ways to make project management cool, but they learned more about working with each other to make their projects run better.

Tools are cool
It's hard to keep up with the pace of technology, but isn't it great that we have so many options and that more are coming out every day. Use them! I know a project manager that tweets information and decisions to the team from large project meetings. Stop letting information die in a shared drive and build a great intranet. These not only do cool things, but they make a real difference and build engagement.

The industry needs cool!
Bad economy or not, the industry desperately needs cool. Project managers want cool and the industry needs more project managers. Clients, too, can spot the difference between cool and uncool.

Christine Brack, PMP, is a principal with ZweigWhite specializing in business planning and project management best practices. She can be contacted at cbrack@zweigwhite.com.


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