19
Sep

Project management, essential skills and Public service – Vanguard

By Akintola Benson-Oke

THE Public Service Staff Development Centre, PSSDC, has continued to fulfill its mandate by honing and sharpening the skills of officers in the Lagos State public service.

We all owe a debt gratitude to His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode for his dedication to the funding and prioritisation of staff development initiatives.

In the Management Study Guide, project management is defined as the art of managing a project and its deliverables with a view to produce finished products or service. There are many ways in which a project can be carried out and the way in which it is executed is project management.

Project management includes: identifying requirements, establishing clear and achievable objectives, balancing the competing demands from the different stakeholders and ensuring that a commonality of purpose is achieved.

It is clear that unless there is a structured and scientific approach to the practice of management, organisations would find themselves adrift in the Ocean called organisational development and hence would be unable to meet the myriad challenges that the modern era throws at them. Hence, the importance of project management to organisations cannot be emphasised more.

Without a scientific approach to the task of managing the projects and achieving objectives, it would be very difficult for the organisations to successfully execute the projects within the constraints of time, scope and quality and deliver the required result. In other words, there has to be a framework and a defined way of doing things to ensure that there is a structure to the art of project management.

Thus, project management is about creating structure and managing the project commitments and the delivery of agreed upon results. By using the conventionally sound and proven methods of project management, organisations can seek to achieve control over the project environment and ensure that the project deliverables are being managed.

Managers face what is known as the “triple constraint”. This is the competing demands of time, scope and quality upon the project manager’s list of things to do and how well the project manager manages these constraints goes a long way in determining the success of the project. Without the use of Project Management, managers and organisations would find themselves facing an unpredictable and chaotic environment over which they have little control. Thus, Project Management is both necessary and essential to the success of the project.

Indeed, project Management is too big an area to be covered in just one training and the attempt at this training is to give insights into the immediate skills that will help officers of the Lagos State Public Service to automate tasks and become more effeccient and effective in delivering value and meeting set goals and to provide a framework within which subsequent actions by the organisation can be taken.

Having described project management above in the manner stated by the management Study Guide, we may now briefly consider why organisations such as the Lagos State Public Service should embrace project management principles. ?As a growing field used increasingly by businesses of all sizes and as entrepreneurs and company executives deal with the daily responsibilities of managing an organisation, it is important to use dedicated project managers to oversee projects from conception to completion.

Understanding effective project management techniques helps organisations carry out large-scale projects on time, on budget and with minimal disruption to the rest of the organisation.

Project management skills help in delivering on temporary and unique ventures. While an organisation is a continuous and ongoing operation, a project is a temporary venture aimed at producing a unique product, service or process. In many cases, this uniqueness means there aren’t any blueprints or steps in place to develop the end product. Project managers have expertise and experience in creating plans to deliver these items. In addition, they seamlessly integrate resources across an organisation’s departments and utilize communication, planning and budgeting skills to bring projects to completion.

Furthermore, many organisational projects involve large-scale planning that affects every departments. Implementing the project may mean dealing with human resources, budgetary and supply constraints. Accredited project managers are skilled in project management techniques specific to dealing with one-time projects. They can create plans to manage interdependence and address resource conflict. Organisations that use project management to monitor and control processes and schedules can more effectively complete their projects on time and on budget.

Meeting timelines is another reason for the adoption of project management practices. Creating a project timeline requires coordinating project activities in conjunction with the ongoing business activities. A project manager will identify and detail activities required in each phase of a project and lead teams with members of  staff to carry out each phase. Working within the parameters of a project management plan, a schedule sets out target dates for completion of tasks within each phase. The time line is directly correlated to the scope of a project.

Project management practices also help in defining the scope of projects. Project management is imperative for organisations implementing wide-ranging or comprehensive projects. Scope refers to the breadth of a project, or how much of the business will be affected, and the bigger the project, the more details and planning are required to successfully bring it to fruition. Carrying out a wide-scale business endeavour requires careful coordination to ensure minimal impact on ongoing sales and production.

Budget formulation and management is another area where project management skills are important. Project management helps keep projects on budget. A good project management plan identifies anticipated costs early on to develop a realistic budget.

Using resource conflict solutions, project managers can minimise the effect of funding a new project on operating capital by optimising the allocation of workers. Coordinating tasks and clearly identifying goals or deliverables within phases reduces inefficiencies in time management that can result in being over-budget.

The training will focus on identifying and teaching the skills required for success in project management. In this regard Helena Bachar has identified 10 essential project management skills as follows:

  1. Budget management: In order to keep a project on track, a project manager must have a solid grasp of basic accounting principles and must maintain a constant awareness of the project’s budgetary performance.

Identifying variances or discrepancies as soon as they arise will help avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.

  1. Scope management: Project managers must have a thorough understanding of what is and is not in scope at the beginning of every project. When a project’s scope needs to change, be sure to document the change appropriately, create a clear audit trail and communicate the impact on budgets and timelines to all stakeholders.

c.Conflict resolution: The bigger the project and the higher the stakes, the more likely it is that conflicts will arise. Whether the disagreement is between members of the same team, between a vendor and a customer, or between any other groups of stakeholders, a good project manager knows how to defuse tension and find a path forward. Setting expectations and providing transparency throughout the project lifecycle can go far in minimising conflicts and keeping everything on track.

d.Creating and delivering presentations: Even if one’s a gifted writer and an engaging speaker, delivering an effective presentation is a distinct skill, one that requires practice. Project managers should understand how to use presentation software and A/V equipment to get important messages across.?

  1. Time management: Much of a project manager’s job involves determining and communicating how other people will spend their time, but it’s equally important to be aware of how you’re managing your own time. Look for opportunities you might have to become more efficient by delegating responsibilities, multi-tasking, or rearranging your schedule.

f.Negotiation: Discussions about budgets, resource allocation, and timelines can become adversarial and counter-productive if not handled tactfully. Successful project managers know how to find compromises where possible and how to hold a firm line without damaging their workplace relationships.

?g.Relationship management: Good project managers make a conscious effort to build trust with customers, vendors, and internal team members. Positive working relationships make it easier to navigate through disputes and other difficult situation.

h.Risk management: When something goes wrong on a project, all eyes turn to the project manager. Regardless of the circumstances, everyone wonders whether the manager could have foreseen and prevented the problem. Being able to anticipate issues and develop solutions for them in advance will dramatically improve  chances of success.

i.Maintaining communications: With traditional project management, there’s a fine line between keeping people in the loop and overwhelming your team with a flood of emails and meeting invitations. Reducing status meetings and emails while keeping everyone in the loop is now possible with modern online project management software—where all information is accessible from one place.

j.Using technology effectively: Project management software has evolved dramatically in recent years, opening up new possibilities for collaboration, data management, communication and reporting. Using the latest tools will enable you to work more efficiently and maximise your effectiveness in every aspect of a project.

Finally, here are some interesting quotes about the value of project management and planning

  • “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” ~ Winston Churchill
  • “It’s a bad plan that admits of no modification.” ~ Publilius Syrus
  • “Plans are worthless. Planning is essential.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” ~ Denis Waitle
  • “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” ~ Peter Drucker
  • “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” ~ Proverb
  • “First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” ~ Aristotle
  • “Those who plan do better than those who do not plan even though they rarely stick to their plan.” ~ Winston Churchill
  • “If you don’t know where you are going. How can you expect to get there?” ~ Basil S. Walsh

Dr. Benson Oke, is Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions?.

[1] http://www.managementstudyguide.com/project-management-importance.htm

[2] For the general source of the following discussion, please see http://smallbusiness.chron.com/important-organizations-use-project-management-46723.html

[3] https://www.clarizen.com/the-10-most-important-project-management-skills/

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