Project management is a relatively new concept in management. Started by the US military in response to the Sputnik crisis in the 1950s, project management has grown into a complete method of organization for any standalone project with a defined end, with its own tools and methodologies.
Although a project manager does need to understand the tasks he or she is managing, they do not get directly involved in the project’s functions. Instead, project managers direct events, check timelines and ensure that everyone performs tasks in a timely way to keep any project organized and moving.
Project managers use a variety of measurement tools to track project tasks, including GANTT charts and Pert charts. A GANTT chart is a timeline tool designed to show the beginnings and ends of different project phases. A Pert chart is designed to evaluate and review a project’s organization and tasks and is more like a flowchart. Between time management and task management, these two tools help project managers perform the core tasks of their jobs.
Project managers must:
- Meet customer requirements
- Maintain budgetary commitments
- Stay on task and on time
The first tasks in any project a project manager must accomplish are the appointments of key team members, the development of schedules and requirements for the project, including the scope, and the assessment of any risks. Only after this has been done can the project be properly budgeted and determined to be viable or not.
Once the project has been approved, three elements have to be continuously managed from that point until the completion of the project: tasks, resources, and time. Any change on one will have an effect on both of the others. For instance, if your timeline is shortened, you will have to perform more tasks simultaneously and acquire more resources. If you are given more resources, then more tasks can be performed and your timeline is reduced. A project manager is directly involved in managing the interrelation of these three elements.
One of the most important tasks of any project manager is the risk assessment. This is separate from regular project management, though your risk management has a direct impact on project management, as with lower risk, your project has a better chance of being completed on time and within budget.
To lower risk, project managers learn to ask the right questions and prepare projects for unanticipated problems. For instance, if you were project manager of the construction of a building, you would be wise to have extra time built into your project to account for weather problems or loss of labor.
You might have more difficulty preparing for other risks, such as finding archaeological sites that need to be accounted for, or having the site burn down, but you can prepare for these by taking out the appropriate insurance.
A good project manager thinks of all possible paths a project could enter, and prepares for eventualities. For this reason, experience makes a big difference. However, there are numerous training programs for beginning project managers as well.