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"With organizations like the Project Management Institute expanding their membership by 20 percent annually, it’s clear that project management is growing fast. But if you are just starting out, questions abound: What does the job consist of? What experience and training do you need? What type of certification is required, and how do you get it? And once you’re off and running, how do you build, manage, and sustain a rewarding and lucrative career?
Your Successful Project Management Career provides you with all the information and advice you need to get started. Beginning with an overview of how project management got started, how the field has grown, and where it’s headed, you’ll find a clarification of project management terminology, and a list of courses, educational programs, and reading requirements you need to be acquainted with. The book gives you helpful tips on how to make the transition from your present career into project management, as well as an explanation of typical corporate hierarchy. The book gives you indispensable advice on:
Acquiring preparatory skills in scheduling, budgeting, team-building, delegation, and building a personal skill set
Assessing the market and selecting the “right” organization
Making friends and alliances in the field
Taking over projects in progress, developing project plans, and executing and closing projects
Gaining experience, and expanding your knowledge and training
Easy to understand and filled with all the information you need to get started, Your Successful Project Management Career is an immensely valuable guidebook every beginning project manager should own."
PART I: UNDERSTANDING PROJECT MANAGEMENT TODAY
1. Understanding What Project Management Is All About
2. Introducing the Principal Organizations
3. Considering the Organizations And You
4. Speaking the Language
PART II: AQUIRING PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS
5. Acquiring Preparatory Skills
6. Acquiring Project and Program Skills
PART III: IMPROVING YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT ABILITIES
7: Expanding Your Knowledge
8: Improving Your Abilities
PART IV: APPLYING YOUR SKILLS TO PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS
9. Matching the Skill Sets to Projects and Programs
10. Are You Ready for the Next One?
PART V: MAKING YOUR CAREER MOVES
11. Meeting Market Needs
12. Getting Settled
PART VI: KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING
13. Applying Your Skills to Other Activities
14. Continuing Your Success!
Let's start by establishing some definitions, so we are all on the same page. The first is: "Projects and Programs." Here, we will look at the structure of projects and programs and what they are all about. Then we will go through the various stages and phases that constitute projects and programs. Next comes: "The Project Management Process." An understanding of what the project management process is all about is essential to understanding how the project manager applies his or her talents to conducting projects and programs. Then: "The Portability of the Process." Just how applicable is the project management process to all the disciplines, and can you take it with you? Next, "The Project Manager." Since you may have a definition of this term that you got from another book or you may have a definition unique to your organization, I will give my definition, so it is clear as you read this book. Next, we will look at the requirements for becoming a project manager. Then, we will introduce the "Path to Success." Finally, the all-important issue: "Deciding if Project Management Is for You." The equation applied to this decision will guide Your Successful Project Management Career.
Projects and Programs
The purpose of both projects and programs is to produce a product or service, or both, according to a requirement, by some moment in time, for a certain cost. A project is performed for an in-house customer; a program is performed for an out-of-house customer under the aegis of a legal contract. In order to accomplish this, a requirement is developed (hopefully written) and assigned to a group for execution. The group, led by a project or program manager, plans how they will perform the task and documents the plan. Then, they go about executing the plan. Finally, when the task is completed, the project or program is closed, and the product is transferred to the originator of the requirement.
The four stages constitute the "big picture." To lay some groundwork, let's start by describing what happens in each of the stages. You can get a feel for when each of the stages starts and finishes by looking at Figure 1-2.
Because a program is responsive to a legal contract between the performing organization and the requiring organization, the Initiating Stage is somewhat different in a program than in a project. In projects, the Initiating Stage is accomplished within the company although it may be in a different section, division, or group than the performing organization. The customer develops and documents the requirement and hands it over to the performing organization. In a program, the Initiating Stage is accomplished by a customer outside the performing company. The customer develops a requirement that is usually competitively bid, negotiated, and then awarded to the performing organization under the aegis of a contract. In a program, the Initiating Stage is divided into several phases, but these phases overlap considerably. For instance, making teaming agreements and alliances as well as developing the proposal are overlapping parts of the pursuit phase.
The Planning and Closure Stages are divided more by events than by discrete phases. The Planning Stage includes developing the program plan, selecting and training the personnel, and presenting the kickoff meeting. These events are usually not separated because they overlap so much. Further, the sequence is inconsistent. Usually, the project manager creates an action list that shows the start and finish of the separate events and the actions contained in each. The action list is posted to allow the team to see each day's activities.
The Execution Stage is the very heart of both the project and the program, and because of its complexity and duration, is divided into several phases. Figure 1-3 contains the actions that are contained in each of the phases. As you can see in Figure 1-1, the common phases are contained solely within the Execution Stage.
Note: When you read through the PMI PMBOK (part of the recommended reading for the Basic Skill Set in Chapter 6) you will find that the Project Management Institute (PMI) chooses to use the term processes rather than stages. PMI calls these processes: Initiating, Planning, Executing, and Closing. Just like the stages in Figure 1-1. In the PMI depiction, "Controlling" processes overlay all the other processes. In truth, they are both processes and stages. I chose to use the term stages here because, if we don't, we get into a compounding of the term processes.
The Project Management Process
By my definition, the project management process consists of the sum of the processes, the stages, and the phases; therefore, the Project Management Process (singular) is the effective control of all the factors during the stages and the phases of a project or program from beginning to end.
The Applicability of the Project Management Process
The project management process is essentially applicable to all industries, disciplines, companies, and jobs. However, in a lot of documentation you will see the phrase: "The Portability of the Process." The statement goes on to say that the process is portable from job to job, industry to industry, and company to company. Even though that statement is true on the surface, the inference many people draw from this statement is that if you are a project manager in one discipline, let's say pharmaceuticals, you can move to another industry, let's say aerospace, and lead a program there. This is not true. Even though the concepts are portable from industry to industry, and so on, the details are not. The reason is that the project manager must be critically attuned to the technical details of the projects he or she is leading in order for the project to be successful. For this reason, I use the term "The Applicability of the Project Management Process."
The Project Manager
The most general definition of a project manager is a person who employs the project management process. Although you can argue with this definition, and I do, it is the way the term is used throughout most of the commercial world today. Why? Because it makes people feel better and makes the job appear more important if the term "manager" is used. Frankly, that definition is oversimplified. In truth, a project manager is, or should be, one who manages projects-that is, he or she has the authority to truly manage the project by moving resources around and into and out of the project. A little further in the book, the terms supervisor and manager will be introduced. Even further, when the different project sizes are introduced, the definition will be compounded. When you start looking for a new position, it is up to you to use all the definitions in this chapter and decide whether the position you seek is really a project manager, or if it is a project coordinator, or a project supervisor that is called a project manager. There's nothing wrong with calling a coordinator or a supervisor a manager so long as you understand what the job is all about.
There are three skill groups a project manager must have in order to be effective: a technical skills group, a project management skills group, and a people skills group (a skill group is different from a skill set, which you will see later). First, the project manager must know what the task is all about from a technical standpoint. For that reason, we frequently see advertisements for: IT strategy project managers, or construction project managers, or the like. Needless to say, the technical tasks these two project managers must lead are dramatically different. Consequently, each must possess a different technical skill in order to perform the specific task assigned. Second, a project manager must possess project management skills-that is, the ability to create schedules and budgets, the ability to implement and manage change control systems, the ability to implement and manage risk management systems, and the ability to implement and manage the many other project management skills as well. These are frequently referred to as the "Hard" (I prefer the term "Firm") project management skills. Third, a project manager must possess the so-called "Soft" skills. These skills are frequently called the people skills. The Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) presents an excellent summary of these skills. They stipulate that a project manager possess these characteristics:
* Leadership ability
* The ability to anticipate problems
* Operational flexibility
* The ability to get things done
* An ability to negotiate and persuade
* An understanding of the environment within which the project is being managed
* The ability to review, monitor, and control
* The ability to manage within an environment of constant change
While all these skills do contain a certain amount of firm knowledge, they depend on the personal characteristics of the project manager to apply them properly. They are absolutely necessary to successfully lead a project composed of more than a single discipline and more than a few people.
The abilities that a project or program manager must possess will vary with the numbers of people, the value, the technical content, and the legal content of the project or program. Consequently, the abilities of the project or program manager need to be "matched" to the role to be performed without going overboard.
* Projects or programs with large numbers of people need a manager who understands the needs of people and of organizing them to get the job done. They don't need an on-site psychologist.
* Projects or programs of high dollar value need a manager with administrative (budgeting and scheduling) skills but he or she must avoid being so involved with the process that the other issues of the task are ignored (commonly called "paralysis by analysis").
* Projects or programs of high technical content need a manager who understands all the disciplines included in the project, but he or she must avoid being so involved in the technical design or technical issues that the project management and people issues are ignored. * Programs with legal content need a manager who understands legal issues but not an on-site lawyer.
All projects or programs require a manager who has the most important ability of all: leadership. "Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.
Now, what does all this mean to you and why should it be in such a prominent position in the book? It means that, when you are applying for a job or a new position as project manager, you must make sure the job is a correct fit for you, your abilities, and even your personality. If you are a qualified and experienced project manager and are offered a job with another company, ensure the job is what you want it to be and what you need it to be or that you can shape it into what you want it to be.
Suppose you are accustomed to moving resources around on your jobs and signing off on subcontracts and materials. In other words, having complete latitude in making your project work. If your new job does not allow you the same latitude, you may be in for a lot of frustration, even if you are making more money. This can be injurious to your career. I had a personal experience with this condition, and it was frustrating. In my case, everything went well until the last interview, when the cat came out of the bag. At the last moment, my interviewer said I would be reporting to a level different from the one we had been discussing all along. Did I have any problem with that? I said, "Yes, I do have a problem with that." And that was the end of it. I found that the president of the area I was supposed to be in didn't want my position reporting to someone else. I was fortunate enough to see the handwriting on the wall and declined the position.
Suppose you are offered a position that is within your capabilities, and everything looks great. In fact, everything is too great. During negotiations you double your present salary, and the interviewer doesn't even blink. You request some heavy-duty requirements such as an extended household move, and still the interviewer doesn't even blink. Something is not quite right here. This happened to me once. Fortunately, I had enough contacts to find out that the program I was to take over was a disaster, and there was just no way anyone could revive it. I found that they were looking for someone to blame for the failure. I turned that position down as well.
Suppose you have very limited experience in running projects and you are offered a job allowing you complete latitude to change resources, and so on. You are then responsible for the results. To accept this job could mean that you are in over your head and destined for failure. Certainly, this will hurt your career. Granted, you should always extend yourself or you will never grow. But, be certain that desire, extra-achievable training, and hard work will make up the difference and you can emerge from the project positively.
As you can see, a project manager is a complex person with a multiplicity of skills. Projects that vary in size, value, and complexity require project managers with different skill sets. These skill sets are not gained overnight, they are part of a learning process that takes a long time-sometimes years. As you read on through this book, you will see the several different skill sets necessary to lead the different project and program types. In the case of project managers, one size does not fit all!
The Path to Success
The path to success can be expressed in a very simple formula. Achieving success, however, is not quite so simple. The path to success is:
Knowledge + Experience + Persona x Performance - Success
Knowledge is a combination of both education and training. Experience is the application of that knowledge. Persona is the personality and attitude you project to your team members, your management, and your customer. Finally, performance is how well it all comes together and how the product turns out, how satisfied management is, and how satisfied the customer is. Performance is the most important factor, because no matter how great each and every one of the other factors is, if performance did not create the product the customer specified or did not provide the profit level that management established, performance will be less than desired, and the project will have been a failure.
We will be referring to the Path to Success at a number of points in this book.
Deciding if Project Management Is for You
If you're like everyone else when making decisions that will affect your career, you want to know: what, where, when, why, and how. I hope to answer as many of these questions for you as I can.
Excerpted from Your Successful Project Management Career by Ronald B. Cagle Copyright © 2005 by Ronald B. Cagle. Excerpted by permission.
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