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Do you manage projects?
Regardless of whether you think you do or you don’t, you most likely use some of the project management principles and skills to accomplish things at work or in your personal life.
There are well known frameworks related to managing projects. I’m not going to cover it all here. But, I do believe that anyone that wants to accomplish personal goals, work performance outcomes, or anything else in life… can benefit from learning more about project management.
Just a few thoughts about it today, and certainly more to come as I embark on a new adventure teaching an introduction to project management course this week.
Episode 125 Show Notes
Episode 125 Transcript
This is Rebecca Clark Episode 125. Project Frameworks This podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk? Mhm, mm hmm. There’s a quote that I have heard At various times in my life and it is attributed to George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 stage play called Man and Superman. Those who can do those who can’t teach and it’s taken new meaning on for me recently as I take on a new responsibility in my work and that is to teach an introduction to project management course, two students virtually from around the world. So isn’t that fascinating? There’s going to be about 50 students in this virtual class and I get to take them through the project management basics. I love project management and I wouldn’t call myself an expert necessarily, but I do have some skills and I have a lot of experience and I’m continuing to learn and grow in my understanding of project management and when I went out of undergraduate years, I actually had a secondary teaching certificate where I was allowed to teach history or social sciences and psychology for, I think it’s sixth through 12th grade. So anything in that realm I was certified for. And yet I didn’t do it. I went into substitute teaching through our K through 12, every subject, every grade I had experiences with computers, math, music, swimming, gym, art, special needs Children. I was a permanent substitute. I would show up every day at whatever school I was asked to show up at and I would do the things right. And I did this all through college in most of the beginning of most summers and then I did this a year after graduating actually, or while I was graduating because I ended with some virtual courses back in the day. I think they were called Independent Study is how I ended my college career. And then I got out of teaching entirely, I went into human resources and into some resume database, selling online and benefits administration, that kind of thing. And that’s the point where I went back to grad school and went into instructional systems design and technology and in that we had some electives and I took a project management course and really enjoyed it and took that knowledge with me into instructional design and then only after a year or two of instructional design, I went into managing the development of online learning products and then some classroom courses. And so I really enjoyed instructional design and technology, but I loved being the project manager for it because there are so many things to consider when you are trying to get something done and using a project framework is a way to get things done. So it’s interesting for me to come full circle now as someone that had a teaching degree when I was young and went into teaching And really fitting this quote, those who can do and those who can’t teach because I didn’t have all the experiences at that point in life, but I was going to go out and teach it, but now I’m on the other end of it where I have had a lot of experiences in life and you gain some expertise in that process. And then this quote becomes completely not true for me because the problem becomes, how do I take 15 2025 years of built in experiences and knowledge in this area and really describe simply to someone that’s brand new how to do it. And this is something that is very difficult in so many ways and how do I know it’s difficult because the organization, I worked for hired subject matter experts and then taught them how to teach to people that were journeymen or entry level employees or experienced in other areas and we’re switching careers and a lot of them thought, oh I’m an expert, it’ll be so easy, just take a course or two and I’ll know how to teach. Well not true my friends, some people that are the worst of teachings are the ones that know the most about a topic and have the most experience because they have forgotten how it is to be amateur and so they come to it super brilliant but unable to convey and help someone else learn to do what they know and they forget that they did not know all the things they know. Now when they started, there’s a process of trial and error involved. So why do I care about this topic? Well, I care because first of all I get to experience with so many that have gone before we have, where I had to suddenly go, oh, how do I take what I know and trust that there’s a simpler way to share it to start off. And in that process, I’m going through my own learning experience as well, because now I get to revisit some of the basic principles of project management and figure out what is most important and when I figure out what’s most important, I get to reflect on experiences in the past and go, oh, where were the mistakes, where were the things we could have made different tradeoffs, what were some of the risks we could have avoided if we had followed a certain approach. And I hope to bring that experience to this learning experience, even though I didn’t create the curriculum for it, but I will have my own type of curriculum because I feel like project management is a skill for every single person on this planet, because it’s an organized way to get stuff done now from the Project management Institute, which is an official institute where you can get project management professional certifications, they have a definition for project management and it states project management is the use of specific knowledge skills tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people. The development of software for an improved business process, the construction of a building the relief effort after a natural disaster. The expansion of sales into a new geographic market. These are all examples of projects. I take an even broader view. I feel like you can create your life as if it’s a huge project, you can divide it out into categories, you can create tasks and sub tasks. And part of this is thinking through your vision, mission and goals upfront and what you want to become and that kind of thing. But think about anything you want to accomplish in life, it usually gets accomplished if you set some parameters for yourself, if you set a timeline, if you decide how much money you’re going to spend on it and and when you decide what does done look like, Right. And that’s really saying cost, schedule and performance, which you’ll often hear associated with project management, how much is it going to cost to do this thing you want to do and how long do you want it to take? And often you have to make trade offs go okay, it’s not going to be perfect. Why isn’t it can be perfect because I don’t have a lot of time and I don’t have a lot of money so what is acceptable to me at this point or am I going to get creative and think of how I can secure more money to get this thing I really want. Will it take a little more time to do that? Perhaps. Who knows? So there’s constant challenges and trade offs to make we do this all the time unofficially, don’t we? When we say, okay, this summer, I want to get x, y and z done or say, oh, we’re going to move, let’s create a checklist of what needs to be done. Let’s decide which dates. Some of the things need to be done by or else we’re not going to pull off this move and of course make choices with costs along the way. I am anxious to share more about project management frameworks with you. But right now I just wanted to cover a few thoughts about project management to encourage you to number one think of anything that you want to accomplish as a personal project, whether it’s work or actually just in the personal life. But number two, learn some project management principles bother to take a course in it, bother to watch videos on it. There’s tons of free information out there and I would love to help. Right? I’ve been through this in many situations, I wanted to share a quick story with you, I managed the development of self paced online learning products for many years and in that process I probably managed about 250 to 300 Online learning products and I kind of put that big wag because some of them were partially developed, some of them were hosted for another organizations, we did some troubleshooting and some of them we developed from scratch. Okay. Most of them we did uh huh And we got to follow a particular process to develop them. We got it very streamlined the process and it got to the point where I experienced so many projects that I could walk into the first meeting of any project and tell you at the end of that meeting how that project was going to go. I could tell you who was going to cooperate and who wasn’t, I could tell you whether they were going to be delays. I could tell you whether or not the project would cost what we estimated up front or if it was going to cost a lot more. All based upon a few questions you would ask people and their attitudes because some people came to it thinking they knew a lot and then found out that they were more amateur than they thought, but they wouldn’t admit to it. So we could see, we’re going to deal certain attitude. Some would come with big binders like, okay, here’s the information that we need to teach our like you’re giving us 600 pages when we’re going to end up with the learning product that has 100 and 20 screens and each of those screens is probably the same amount of information as what you provided on half of one of your pages. And so there are big discrepancies and what people understood we were doing and like I mentioned before, some people were so expert, it was very difficult to go, what would be the most basic piece of information these students would need to know to get started on their learning, the more expert you get, the harder it is to identify that I’m not going to get into a full blown project management framework training right here. But I want to point out that most people when they talk about project management, talk about those three main factors cost, schedule and performance and throughout the project you will be making trade offs in each of those areas at any given time, deciding what is the most important thing to do right now. Am I willing to spend more money knowing it’s going to get me something better? Am I willing to spend less and be content that I’ve created something that meets the need of yourself or someone else? And what kind of trade us am I going to make with the schedule? Is it going to go on forever or do I need something right now, one of the ways that I would encourage you thinking about using project management frameworks in your personal life is to decide that you want to accomplish a personal goal in the next month that might be eating better that might be taking on a new sport, that might be finishing a book. It could be to take a trip. It could be to research something that you might be interested in and make a decision on moving forward on it. So I encourage you to make a goal and this is the performance outcome that you would like to achieve and then decide what are you willing to pay for this? I was having a lot of angst in the last couple of weeks and like, oh, do I join a gym or not? Mm I looked up a few gyms and I realized through the process, oh, I have a requirement for a gym that has a swimming pool because I want to swim laps and even if the cost is a little higher, it’s worth it to me. And I looked at the costs, I’m like, oh gee, you know, if you do go month to month, you have to pay this extra fee. But at the same time it ensures that you can make a different choice each month. If you’re gonna move, if you’d rather go to a different gym or if you want to have a family plan or whatever. And I kept on putting it down on my to do list and not doing it. And I thought, why am I making this so hard? I have a goal to swim laps twice a week. I have a goal to get in shape, why am I not supporting myself in this goal? I am willing to spend money on this and in this case I’m willing to spend it on this and not something else. In order to achieve this, I’ve already established a performance outcome. I want to get healthy and strong and part of that for me is taking on certain types of exercise that I enjoy that don’t feel like a pain. Mm And so I took the leap, paid a few bucks for the first month, month, a month. I can change my mind whenever I want but I invested in myself. The next step is scheduling it saying, okay, how soon will this happen? Well, I have decided that it’s okay for me if I have three months to obtain a certain level of fitness and the reason I’ve decided that is because of many other goals in life to go all in exercising five hours a day. Because I also know between having other things to do that my appetite exponentially increases as I increase my exercise. So, because I understand that about myself, I’m willing to make some trade offs and go, you know what I want to love every minute of this exercise. I want to spread it out over a few months and I’m going to schedule certain days of the week in certain times where I will go to the gym and I’m gonna schedule in such a way where I make it easy for myself because I really want to achieve this performance outcome. Now, in this case, this personal project is fairly easy, right? Because the cost is pretty straightforward month a month. The schedule I should be able to create three times at least a week where I could go to this gym plus it’s located very close to the house, less than a mile and need to know how to keep that performance goal in mind. And this is where I like to intertwine some of what I talk and teach about related to time management techniques. Right? If you constantly keep your performance outcome or your life goal in mind, when you sit down to plan your schedule each week, you will schedule it, you will schedule those daily habits that lead to that performance outcome you want. And even now with electronic calendars, right? You can even just put the thing on your calendar all the way for the next three months. This is using part of project management principles to help us meet our personal goals and there is no amount of time that we spent on project management skills wasted, right? We take that into our work, we take that into our volunteer activities. We take that into our home management. Right, successful homes don’t just happen. They come because people are planning it and managing things that go on. So for example, I planned to go swimming today. But then with the new course I’m teaching, I needed to get on a call at noon while this is a problem for me because what that would mean is I’d be getting out of the pool at the time, I’d schedule come home, have to take the shower, get ready and get on the call and it was too close for comfort for me. And so I decided no, not going swimming today, I’m going to reschedule that for tomorrow. So I’ve had a bump and schedule but I’m still keeping to the performance goal. It hasn’t affected any of the costs. Thank goodness. And there’s no problem here. Right, I’m making a trade off because I’ve realized that outside of my project there’s something that’s just as valuable to me that I have to balance in this moment. Now tomorrow, if this happens again, I have to go, time to question what time I’ve scheduled this task for to swim laps because it’s not working for me, I’m proving it by two days in a row. Right. And you go, Okay, maybe it would be better if I went swimming at two p.m. What are the odds? I’ll have some calls at two p.m. For me? Not very high because I try not to have a lot of calls. Mhm. 30 to 40 hours of calls Each week for over 15 years has created the desire in me to not have a lot of calls right now. So that’s a priority. So, understanding that we can have these personal projects in our lives and work that help us perform, that help us reach our goals. And what’s very interesting is that project management in and of itself can be very simple in some respects, but it can also be huge and complex to make an airplane right or a new development in a neighborhood. Those are huge, massively complex schedules and project plans. But they all follow the same principles and they follow the same principles whether you write it on the back of a napkin or if you use M. S. Project or if you use tools that you’re even more robust than that that allow multiple collaborators into the same space to monitor and adjust the trade offs and risks and decision making that needs to go on in the process. But today I still want to encourage you to take some kind of course or go online and learn a little bit more about project management because it is a skill that can help in every area of your life. I am excited to share more with you. I’d kind of like to break it down and share one little area of it at a time because I haven’t shared that much on this podcast about this. I have shared about requirements a little bit and the importance of having the right requirements, especially if you are giving work to someone else to do because if you don’t get very clear requirements, you’re not going to get what you want out the other side because most people are not mind readers and so we need to have very clear what you’re expecting. But some topics I’d like to get into going forward. Our scope management, schedule management, cost quality, re sourcing the communications involved, the risks involved, the procurement. If you’re going to have contractors and stakeholder management, these are all key areas and of course project integration, because often there’s more than one project or you are doing what I had to do in my last job or there will be specific projects but then you had day to day operations which are not project based, right? They go every single day, every day. You brush your teeth every day, you eat the food, right. That’s kind of ongoing operations in the mix of all those things you do to keep your body going. You have things that need to get done that have deadlines that have appointments associated with them that have a sequence of tasks that need to be done in order for you to accomplish it. So there’s a lot involved in project management. But at the same time you can apply basic simple principles to your life with the cost, schedule, performance focus. And and it can be very instrumental in helping you clarify what you really want, how much money you want to spend doing it, how long you want to take doing it and what you’re willing to trade off or risk to make it happen. Okay, these are some ramblings and I’m excited to let you know in a few weeks how my teaching is going, because I’m sure I will have lessons learned. I’m looking at this as if I’m a newbie, especially because now I’m in a learning management system in a different capacity than I’ve been in the past, right? I’ve been leading and managing it and I taught self paced online courses and now I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting involved in an individual student basis. So fun to continue exploring and learning new things about ourselves and our capacity to learn and grow even as we have a lot of experience. Okay, my friends, I hope you have a great day and talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the show today. If you enjoyed it. I’d love if you’d write a review and share the show with your friends, sign up for a weekly nudge at move your desk dot com. Mhm