We ran our first project management course recently leading to the Association for Project Management Introductory Certificate. On the course was Nancy Mendoza (also a graduate of the very first online CIPR Diploma in PR). She is already putting into practice what she has learned so I asked her to share her thoughts on why project management matters for communication. She told us:
It’s easy in communications, where we’re used to short deadlines and a fast pace, to dismiss project management as an unnecessary and delaying step. After all, the reason we’re good at our jobs is that we have the ability to just get on with it. But it’s also odd that we do avoid it, given our proclivity for thinking the unthinkable – “an issue ignored, is a crisis ensured”.
Now, project management is not the same thing as planning. A plan may contain all of the steps required to achieve an end goal, which is in itself a vital element to a project, but a project also sees the bigger picture. Project management enables us to:
- Balance cost, time and scope/quality, choosing which must be fixed or predictable
- Know what success looks like and when it has been achieved
- Understand the needs, roles and responsibilities of stakeholders within and without the plan
- Predict what factors will make a project successful and any that are likely to hinder it
- Appreciate tasks that are fixed and critical, and tasks that are movable (and to what degree)
- Incorporate risk and issues management into the plan
- Identify priorities for monitoring performance e.g. critical tasks, or high risk activities
- Agree and track changes to the project as it progresses
Communications people are good in a crisis, in fact, many of us thrive on the cut and thrust of a media scandal or the adrenalin of racing round to M&S when the catering didn’t turn up for the stakeholder meeting. It’s easy then to dismiss the risk of something going wrong, because we’ll always handle it. But what if you could have known sooner that there had been a problem, or even had someone on standby to go to M&S while you stuck to your original task list?
For those of us working in larger organisations that include a project office or programme office, developing these skills will also help us to integrate with these colleagues. How many times have you found yourself brought into a project team as an afterthought? Speaking their language helps a great deal.
In the end, I see project management as a way to make up for the fact that we are only human. Our brains are actually very bad at planning and our psyches are even worse. The suite of tools that project management provides, works to extend our cognitive ability beyond what we can do on our own. The possibility for success is pretty much endless!
Nancy W Mendoza is a senior communications and PR professional, specialising in Science Communication. She blogs at www.nancywmendoza.co.uk