J Lawry | The Art of the Science of Project Management
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The Art of the Science of Project Management

The Art of the Science of Project Management

Some years ago, at an interview for an interim contract, I was asked to do a 10 minute presentation on the subject “Project Management – art or science”.  Once I had got over the ‘death by PowerPoint’ dilemma, I set about the subject matter.

A number of project managers arrive from a technical background and training – they know that one day their PRINCE2® will come, they are Agile and relish a Scrum (sorry, couldn’t resist), they will spend days creating elaborate gantt charts and spreadsheets and highlight reports and…….but just don’t ask them to actually engage with human beings.  In common with other industries, healthcare management projects are becoming larger and more complex and the art of engagement is becoming more of a necessity.

Today’s project manager needs to be both technician and diplomat.  Faced with the response that this is “just another project” they need to be adept an inspiring and motivating their colleagues in the PMO as well as their stakeholder groups.  So in the “art or science” arena – I would cite the art of inspiration first and foremost.  That means the PM must have integrity – they need to believe in the project and its goals and outcomes.  If you have that, you are part way towards being able to motivate your team and your stakeholders.  So, how are your communication skills?  The PM needs to “sell” the project goals, as well as communicate progress, risks and challenge delays.

Of course the technical skills are vital; I’m the proud owner of a range of project management certificates from PRINCE2® to P3O.  You MUST be able to present your project’s progress in a concise manner – and that means using your status reports, your plan on a page, your risk and issues log.  While you may not be a project analyst, and use the skills of an informatics specialist, you need to have an analytical thought process – but the art is being able to communicate that!  Project Managers need to think on their feet and be prepared to adopt new principles, and I speak as someone who was thrown (without warning) into Jack Welch’s Workout programme!   Today, while  PRINCE2® remains the standard MSP and P3O qualifications are taking precedent.  The PM must also know that those technical guidelines are merely that – a framework – and they must be able to body swerve if priorities change in the business while still achieving the end goal.  And that is an art.

By the way, I got the contract!