8 December 2019 | Produced by Kandy Shaw
How to project manage your way out of the jungle
It’s that time again… The annual ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ is drawing to an end. Soon the jungle drums will announce the winner. Tensions are running high. But how on earth, I hear you ask, could anyone think to compare a career in project management to being a celebrity in this TV competition? Surprisingly, it was quite easy to do. The circumstances that the celebrities have found themselves in are surprisingly parallel to those of a candidate embarking on a project management career.
Celebrity v Project Manager
The celebrity is trying to win the competition. In a project management career, the candidate is trying to ‘win’ that dream job. Both need to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Both need experience, a can-do attitude and the ability to overcome issues that will undoubtedly arise. Both roles require hard work, team effort and both need to make decisions.
This post aims then, to help readers plan and decide how they can manage their way through the jungle of project management. It is a brief guide to the training that is available and is aimed at complete beginners who would like to pursue a project managing career path, but also at those with some training and experience who simply wish to make an informed decision about where to go next.
Compare project management training to a bush tucker trial; the more you can ‘swallow’, the better your reward (or in the case of the celebrity, the more food you win for your team). The trials (training) you put yourself through will give you the experience required for a project management role and you will be respected for it. There are going to be challenges and difficulties. The higher you climb up the career ladder (or the longer you remain in the jungle) the more challenges and difficulties you are going to face. As your responsibilities grow, so too does your confidence and courage. As with the celebrities, however, you need to know what it is that you are buying in to.
(Image Credit: ITV)
What are you buying into?
The simple answer to this question is that you are buying into yourself and your future career prospects. However, you need to be sure that what you buy in terms of training is going to give you a return on your investment (ROI), but how do you do that?
Firstly, you need to understand your own personality because this might determine which training may suit you better. Some of you may wish to canoe down the jungle river in an agile manner, but others might enjoy the rapids and waterfalls. (I will explain this further when I briefly discuss the difference between PRINCE2® and Agile later in this post). You need to recognise whether you are a leader or a follower and whether you would prefer to be in an administrating role or a managerial one. Once you have recognised your personality, then you can choose which course to take, but where do you start?
Start at the beginning
Assuming you have no formal project management training you must start at the beginning. It would be advisable to begin with Microsoft Excel and then Microsoft Visio. Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Outlook are also worthy tools for consideration and Microsoft Project would be invaluable. I would just like to point out here that sometimes the abbreviation; MSP is mistakenly identified as Microsoft Project. However, MSP stands for Managing Successful Programmes and is the sort of training that is only to be considered after other project management certifications and experience have been gained by the candidate. Basically, MSP is the canopy above the jungle whereas Microsoft Project is merely the dipping of one’s toe into the undergrowth.
(Image Credit: ITV)
PRINCE2 or Agile?
Once you are competent with Microsoft Project there are several possibilities you could pursue such as PRINCE2® or Agile Project Management (AgilePM). PRINCE2® is what is called a waterfall methodology because it is a defined and structured methodology that follows a sequence. You cannot move to the next phase of the development until the last phase has been completed, tested and considered successful. PRINCE2® is based on 7 principles which are the driving force of this methodology; determining the roles and responsibilities of each member of the team from the project board to the project administrator.
Agile, as opposed to PRINCE2® is not a single methodology but rather an umbrella term for numerous frameworks and project development methods like Kanban, Lean and Scrum. Being empirical, Agile is adaptive and flexible, meaning that changes can be made even after the initial planning is complete. This is an iterative approach that consists of cycles (Sprints) and regular checking of the development of the product.
Which kind of manager?
If you are considering a management career (rather than an administrative position) you need to ask yourself if you are a waterfall or an agile kind of manager, or would you prefer not to be a manager in the traditional sense of the word? Would you prefer to be a Scrum Master and therefore not solely accountable for the success or failure of the project?
Scrum is the most popular Agile approach to project management. As a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), you lead by example, coaching and encouraging your team to use Scrum methodology within the working environment. A traditional project manager would assume responsibility for the success or failure of the project and would delegate tasks to individual members of their team. In a Scrum team, however, there is no one person responsible for the success or failure of the project. The Scrum Master trains the team to be self-organising. Each member of the team take ownership of their own specific tasks and actions and become accountable for that task or action. The team is not managed by the CSM, but rather manages itself with daily meetings, iterative inspections and adaptations to the product.
PRINCE2 Agile® tries to bring PRINCE2® and AgilePM together. It is more of an add-on to PRINCE2® that attempts to get the best of both worlds as it teaches the delegate how to operate PRINCE2® methodology in an agile environment. Whilst the prerequisite for this course is PRINCE2® Foundation, it is strongly advised that you also complete PRINCE2® Practitioner as you may find it difficult to jump straight to PRINCE2 Agile®. The advantage of gaining PRINCE2® Practitioner first is that you will be able to go straight on to PRINCE2 Agile® Practitioner, which can be completed in only 3 days.
As I said earlier, MSP is a more senior management role wherein you would be managing multiple projects and multiple programmes. With this certification you would plan the structure of the programme and organise the projects within that programme. A project manager, in contrast would be responsible more for the managing of the team or teams involved with the project. They would be the ones to ensure that tasks are completed within budget and on time. Whilst there are no prerequisites to this certification, it is strongly advised that you first complete either a PRINCE2® Foundation & Practitioner or Agile Project Management Foundation & Practitioner.
So, how do you manage your way out of the jungle?
As Caitlyn Jenner declared… you need to “dare to be great”! You decide which project management skills are necessary for the career you wish to pursue and then decide which training you would like or need to take. Speak to your colleagues, team leaders or managers; they may be able to help you with your choices as they know how you work. If you still need to discuss your future career plans, or if you are not currently in work and need speak to someone for advice, then you can also contact the team here at NILC. Simply get in contact with us and we will be happy to help you with any further questions or uncertainties you may have.