Four things I learned about project management

1. My biggest take-away

Back in February, I spent five days in Toronto, taking Project Management training.  While this was ostensibly for my day-job, my biggest take-away is that anything can be a project: my novel, a poem, a short story, training, training design, home renovation, a conference or vacation, even going out to celebrate a birthday, all of it.  And anything that can be considered a project can be made more successful by solid project management practices.

Our instructor for the week was Paul  S. Adler of Paul S. Adler and Associates, a certified Project Management Professional through the Project Management Institute (PMI).   In a practical demonstration of participant-centered training in action, Mr. Adler guided the class through content-relevant activities, integrated lecture and video segments, and tied the whole together with practical application sessions that culminated in a presentation of our team projects on Friday morning.

2. The PMBOK and the PMBOX

PMBOK stands for the Project Management Body of Knowledge.  The PMBOK Guide is the Bible of project management and is produced by PMI.

One of the mini-projects that the class had to produce was a commercial for a product.  My group chose the PMBOX, containing everything you would need to manage your next project.  While our tagline was “With the PMBOX, your projects will manage themselves,” there is no magic solution to project management.  The toolkit is in the project manager’s head and reference library, and it will take years of practice to implement, understand, and perfect those skills.

3. The Spectre of Groupthink

While I think Mr. Adler’s video library could stand some updating, each was relevant and elucidating.  In a serendipitous bit of media tie-in, Roger Boisjoly, the central figure of the video on “Groupthink” passed away on January 6, 2012.  His passing was publicized on February 8, 2012 in newspapers across the US.  I found the video challenging and the difficulty of Roger’s position tragic.  Moreover, his story following the Challenger disaster he tried to avert was compelling. 

Groupthink is a phenomenon in which coverconfidence, looming deadlines, and pressure to conform can conspire to silence conscientious dissenters.  In Boisjoly’s case, he warned of the potential failure of the O ring that ultimately resulted in the Challenger disaster.

Groupthink in my workplace (not my team specifically – we’re pretty awesome) is a hazard, and extremely difficult to overcome.  I’m now dreading the possibility of having to confront the beast.  Thankfully, I don’t think it’s imminent, and the projects I might work on would not involve life-or-death decision, but still … it’s both haunting, and daunting.

4. Let’s Talk Again

On Wednesday evening, the day after we discussed Groupthink, I watched the CTV broadcast of Michael Landsberg’s interviews with Darryl Strawberry, Stéphane Richer, and Clara Hughes about depression.  It was significant for me in the context of the course, because Mr. Adler had spent some time discussing stress management that day.  As someone prone to depression, I do what I can to combat negative stress every day.  Walking my dog, or walking home from work, making a physical as well as mental “switch” between work and home lives, and seeking the happy are all important parts of my life and my “process.”

Kim Covert, of the Postmedia News service calls depression in the workplace the “trillion dollar elephant in the room.”   It’s an issue that has a huge impact on both our professional and personal lives and people have been silent with respect to depression for too long.

Bottom line: find your bliss; follow your joy; do whatever you can to find the happy in your life.

In the end

There was too much course to cram into a little blog post like this.  We covered at least ten important topics every day.  That’s a lot of learning!  Project Management isn’t something that can be done, or done perfectly, out of the gate.  As Mr. Adler told us, we just need to start with one thing, practice it, and build on that practice gradually.  Also, he encouraged us to use project management at home.

I’d highly recommend the course, or one like it, to everyone.

As Drew Dudley says so succinctly and so beautifully, leadership in everyday life can change the world.

Have you attended a course recently that has had an impact on you?  What was the course?  What was its impact?  Do share!