Back when I first became a Project Manager, I was often asked what the heck Project Management was. Trying to explain it to people who’d never encountered the concept wasn’t easy…until I stopped trying to use jargon to do it.
You see, those of us who’ve been Project Managers starting in the 80s or 90s especially, are doing so as “second generation” careers. In other words, we used to be or do something else, but some way or another, “fell into” project management.
In my case, I had been a Business Analyst and then at some point realized that this “new thing” I was doing had a name, methodologies and even advanced degrees available (although at the time, not very many places offered Masters degrees in Project Management).
When I first got into being a PM, I was all kinds of in love with feeling special for knowing what “scope creep” meant and what “risk mitigation” was. Which was why, like so many people who loooooove both buzzwords and jargon, my explanations to laypeople confused them rather than educating them. You can find a fun article by James Sudakow about this very issue here on Guerilla Project Management.
But I’m not here to sell you something! What I’m here to do is explain to you in the simplest possible terms what project management is. So here it is, my definition:
Bringing order to chaos.
Yes, that’s it. Really, it is. And yes…most of you do that in your everyday lives. Think about that.
Sure, we Project Managers might employ five hundred different techniques for maintaining order and organizing chaos, but none of that is really necessary (in terms of filling out eighty-page templates or following fifty-step processes). I can hear process-centric PMs everywhere screaming that a) there’s no way to turn their fancy jobs into a few simple steps, or b) even if there is, you can’t do that because we’ll all be out of our jobs!
Well, to be frank, I am more interested in teaching people to fish than I am in catching the fish for them by hiding behind a complicated fishing system (and then charging them an arm and a leg for it). Yes, I did just kind of steal a parable from the Bible, but it’s an apt comparison.
Why should you flounder in life trying to solve your problems, trying to manage your time and the projects you get at work, trying to defeat Overwhelm, when I can say here, just follow these steps and you can tackle anything? I don’t think you should flounder just so I can keep my job. I think you should be allowed to learn how to do what I do day in and day out not only at work, but in my personal life, all with stellar results.
Overcomplicating something as simple as Project Management is, from my perspective, like telling you washing dishes is as difficult as launching the space shuttle. Project management is NOT THAT HARD…it’s all these organizations and “experts” who make it hard. Why? Because everything’s a project and everyone’s a Project Manager. Hence my book series name! 🙂
Here’s a good example of the kind of thing I’m talking about:
You’ve just moved into a new city and you need to go to the grocery store. So you enter the address into your phone’s map app and it gives you the directions. You’re taking so many lefts and rights as you follow those directions that you wonder if you will ever remember how to get to the store from your new home and vice-versa!
The next day you’re outside checking your mail and your neighbor Jane stops to welcome you to the neighborhood. During that conversation you happen to mention the difficult trip to the store. Jane looks at you funny, then says, “I don’t understand. Which store did you go to?” When you tell her, the look on her face becomes incredulous. She says, “You don’t have to make all those turns; if you head down this alley and make a left on Cedar, you’ll be at the back entrance of the grocery store’s parking lot in about ten minutes with only two turns.”
Well, duh. Now not only do you feel kind of dimwitted, but you a) want to kick your phone’s map app for making yesterday’s journey so difficult, and b) you wish you hadn’t wasted all that time making a dozen lefts and rights you didn’t need to make to reach your destination!
That’s what I’m talking about with Project Management. I can so easily explain now how to get the best results for anything you tackle, whether it’s a million-dollar project at work or painting your kid’s room the next best shade of bubbleberry blue.
If you’d like to see how easy my process is, how you are already a Project Manager whether you realize it or not, all you need to do is check out Everything’s a Project (and Everyone’s a Project Manager) on Amazon. It’s free if you’re in Kindle Unlimited. Because I believe we are all capable of being Project Manager Superstars!