Sunday, 14 August 2016

On Project Management

In the last couple of years, I've had people approach me from different areas (technical and non-technical) to teach about project and program management. I've had some senior management ask me to guide project managers (that were close to being fired that needed an intervention to turn them around), engineers seeking guidance on how to get into project management, and heads of PMOs tell their people to shadow me to learn how "Muhammad does it", so much so, that most recently, most of my style of project documents, reports & ways-of-managing-meetings have formed the basis of "how we should do things here" templates. This year, I was asked to teach a course and was even offered a potential future coaching opportunity to help a PMO reach their desired levels of performance (which plays nicely to my aspirations of improved life-work balance and creating more time for myself, like working 3-day weeks).

This might sound like great feedback, something to be proud of, and a rather nice side effect of the work that I have come to "just do" automatically. I had no ulterior motives for recognition and reward. I never once professed to be a grand professional project manager.  Heck, I am not even certified (even though I've been on training courses and I am quite well read), I don't even promote PMP / PRINCE2 / Agile certifications & methodologies, and I've hardly used MS Project to run projects - and here are people who already have all the certifications in place (and arguably more proficient with project tools like MS Project), coming to me, asking for guidance and to be taught!! 

In truth, this recognition (and sometimes public endorsements) makes me more uncomfortable to say the least and has increased my own self-awareness, because I'm actually quite acutely aware of my own limitations. What is it that my customers see in my work?? Do they realise I'm not even currently a certified PM?? How can I help transmit what I've learnt in my experiences (acquired wisdom & intuition) in project management, that people don't already know, that they wouldn't already have picked up in PMBOK certification courses anyway? 

Recently I completed Any Hunt's "Pragmatic Thinking & Learning", where I came across the Dreyfus Model; and earlier this year, I read Donnie MacNicol's "Project Leadership" which made me realise that I may just be at the level of Expert/Mastery (Project Leader) skill level on the Dreyfus model for most (but not all) of the skills for project & program management. In a future post I will share my own PM-skills diagnostic when viewed according to the Dreyfus model. This will be a useful self-discovery exercise especially after watching a talk on Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.

So as an experiment, I decided to create a rough mind map of my own PM Knowledge-base. When I start a project, what framework do I use that helps me navigate the project minefield? So I created the picture below - a very rough dump from memory. This could potentially serve as a rough outline of a coaching course I could do for project management. If I were to write a training plan, how would I structure it? If I were running a PMO, what would I focus on? I could just about write a blog post on each of the topics (and over time, I could have training material emerge, who knows!).

My PM Mind Map

Rough Mind Map

My PM Knowledge Base

Whilst I have to date, kept away from acquiring a formal PM certification (see this post that explains my reasoning to shy away from certification), I read a number  of books and material on the subject. Below is my library that has helped me in my quest to master the subject and sharpen my toolbox. This list is in no particular order, although each one has inspired me in some way and has had a direct influence into how I apply my knowledge in applying my project management roles (I've got another five more currently reading, the list will update as I finish more in future).

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