Project Management: Keepin’ Sh*t Together

Guest post by Danny Heggen, YNPN Des Moines founding co-chair and Project Management extraordinaire

What do you do? It’s a pretty common question when meeting new people. When I worked with youth, I always told people I was a youth worker. My wife was always quick to note that I ran youth programs, not summer camps and I wasn’t a counselor. Definitions. Who needs ‘em?

When I took on the title project manager, I realized I still struggled with definition – what do I actually do? So I spent some time thinking about the most concise way to phrase it, thinking about the most delicate way to explain what it means to be a project manager. What I came up with: I keep shit together.

KeepCalmProjectManage.jpg

Let me explain.

It’s not my role to manage people. It’s my role to manage the work people get to do. Which essentially means I need to know how to manage people in order to drive their work. My day to day is a mixture of tasks that involve people: discussing strategy, tracking data, and generating reports. Piecing everything together, so that our outcome is what we expected it to be. I’m not the one doing the work; I’m the one making sure the work the needs to happen happens.

In short, my work is to make sure everyone understands how their work fits in the big picture. Along the way, I keep track of everything – notes and data. This way, when we reach the end, we can tell a story.

A few tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Communicate. Until everyone tells you to stop talking about what is happening, communicate.
2. Roll it out & Roll it up. Know how to take an idea or task and then create a plan to make it happen. This is what I call rolling it out. Then, when the work is complete, generate a report that captures what happened, when, and how. Also, make notes about what could have gone differently to make it easier on the team next time. Roll this report up to the necessary people. They’ll be thankful.
3. Know who is involved. This seems really simple, but the most important thing when starting a new project is understanding who needs to be involved. It could be two people. It could be 13 people. Once the team is in place, the work can begin. Why? Because these people bring the skills, tools, and resources needed to get the work done. If your job is to make sure all the screws are tightened, you want to make sure the people with screwdrivers are sitting at the table.

Want to learn more about starting up a new project with a team of people? Check out this blog, Team Development Lessons Learned.

There are many reasons to bring a project manager to the table; however, there are many skills that each of us can develop to ensure each project we take on is successful. Keep in mind: We all need to keep shit together.

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