I can still recall the day I was given a project I thought would kill my brain.
I was 25 years old and worked as a Senior Manager in a small gaming company in NYC. I was asked to supervise the development of a 2MM contract.
The video game will be used in more than 400 classrooms across the US to teach high school students about business and accounting. We had over 100 characters in mind, and were to create a six-week course curriculum. Players would also be able to build their avatars.
This was the most difficult project we had ever attempted to tackle and we realized that we had eaten more than we could chew.
As the PM, I began to wonder “Why me?”
I knew the answer in a flash: Complexity is what I thrive on. I love making complex projects simple and tangible.
What makes a project complicated?
It is important to know the difference between a complex and difficult project.
Complex projects are not necessarily difficult. While complex projects can be difficult for reasons like cost or performance, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the project is difficult.
Complexity refers specifically to projects that are ambiguous or uncertain. They are often surrounded by uncertainty. Another indicator of a complex project is:
Participation of many teams and stakeholders
Many moving parts
Budget / Restraints
Once you have identified the complexity of your project, it is time to put your skills to work to take on the beast one bite at time.
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Complex projects require more than just the ability to spin plates and herd cats. This is only one skill required for project management. Other skills include:
You must be flexible to be successful. Projects are constantly changing and project managers must be able to adapt. This means that you should not think in binary terms. You will have to adapt your project management style to meet changing circumstances.
Communication is perhaps the most important skill a PM has. Communication is a major skill of a PM. It takes up to 90% of their time. PMs must communicate effectively vision, ideas, goals, and issues. They also need to produce reports and presentations.
Communication is more than just documentation. Communication requires building a relationship between your client and your team. The project will fail if they don’t trust your team. Your team must be open to collaboration. It is essential to work with others in order to accomplish any project, especially if it is difficult. You can’t be successful on your own. To achieve success, you must work with your client and team.
Leadership and expertise go hand in hand. You can lead if you are able to do so. Leadership is about motivating, directing, and guiding your team to do their best work.
Leadership is a matter of experience. Both skills cannot be taught. They learn overtime through real-life, hands-on experience.
These essential skills are the backbone of identifying the challenges in a project and how to navigate it.
Let’s put these ideas into practice.
1. Document. Document. Document.
You can break down a project into manageable parts, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a project.