During a conversation with a pediatric surgeon, I was surprised to hear that surgeons apply Project Management principles in the operating theatre. Project management can provide you with a framework to take a structured approach to problem solving. These concepts can be applied to just about anything, irrespective of your area of expertise. Knowledge of project management will help you work better with stakeholders (everybody involved) and understand your own work better.
Before suggesting how you can apply this discipline in your daily life, here are some fundamental terminology for the uninitiated
- A Project is a temporary activity designed to produce a unique product, service or result.
- Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently.
- Project management processes fall into five groups:
- The following ten knowledge areas are applied in each of the five project processes.
- There are three constraints for any project – time (duration), cost (money), and scope (amount of work done). Change in one of these constraints will affect the others. For example, a decrease in funds (cost), means that less work gets done (scope) and also ends the project early (time).
Now let us apply these principles in a practical example: Buying a house.
You want to buy a house as an investment and this isn’t going to be easy. You have your requirements and need to meet them in the best way possible. Here’s how you can use PM techniques to systemically plan and perform your house hunt:
Ask yourself the following questions and write down the answers – proper documentation is a prerequisite to effective project management.
Project Management Processes
- Initiating – What is the expected outcome of this project?
- Planning – What are your specific requirements? How will you perform the search for the perfect house? What tools will you use? How long will you take?
- Executing – Search for the house. Make calls. Browse the internet. Set up visits with landlords.
- Monitoring and Controlling – Do you suddenly find yourself with less money and want to lower your expectations? Make changes as needed.
- Closing – You have successfully found the house of your dreams within your budget. Time to mark this project as ‘done’ and celebrate.
- Integration – How will you integrate all the other aspects of your project to be both efficient and effective in terms of the constraints? Did you document everything or do you make a mental note of whatever you think is important?
- Scope – Are your expectations set in stone or do you allow yourself some flexibility? For instance, are you prepared to buy a smaller house in a less up-class area? Do you absolutely need a swimming pool?
- Time – How much time can you spend on your house hunt? Do you dedicate a few hours per week? Do you give yourself additional time to catch up if you fall behind your plans?
- Cost – How much are you willing to spend on the new house? How much are you willing to spend on the search?
- Quality – Do you want a newly built house, or are you prepared to upgrade an older house?
- Human Resources – Do you rope in your friends or spouse to help you? How do you manage the people involved in the project? Do you take your friends out to a drink to show your appreciation for their assistance?
- Communications – How do you plan to communicate with the other people involved in the project? Do you email estate agents, banks and lawyers or call them to express your interest in their property? If your friends are helping you in your house hunt, do you ask them to give you updates every day?
- Risk – Always have a Plan B. What if you run out of money and have to settle for a lower quality house? Plan for the unexpected and know beforehand how you’re going to deal with it.
- Procurement – How will you procure the house? Are you happy with the terms of the bond, or do you need to negotiate it?
- Stakeholders – How do you manage the people involved in this project? For example, the estate agents, the bank manager and lawyers that register the bond.
As you can see, these valuable Project Management principles can be applied to just about any aspect of our daily lives. Each Project has critical areas which can make or break the Project. This is done by a network system that identifies the critical factors (critical path).
To learn more about critical paths I would suggest the reader to enroll in the CTU Project Management course.