Is It Time To Learn More About Project Management?

Last month, I led a workshop on project management in Austin, Texas for 100 public relations leaders as part of the PRSA International Conference. On November 12th I’ll be teaching the same workshop to members of the International Association of Business Communicators at the Heritage Regional Conference being held in Richmond, Virginia. I have found that by investing in my own development by studying project management techniques, terminology and tactics that I have been asked to take on higher level executive leadership initiatives as a project leader. According to a global survey done by the Project Management Institute (PMI) called Pulse of the Profession 2018 around $2 trillion dollars per year is wasted in American business due to poor project management. At any one time 37% of an organization’s projects are at risk of failure. And by 2027, employers will need 88 million individuals in project management oriented roles. Organizations are facing increased competition and ongoing disruption that is forcing them to use proven project management practices.

I believe that communications professionals need to develop additional skills in order to stay relevant in today’s marketplace and one of the top complementary skillsets to have is project management. It’s a myth to think that only technical professionals like IT managers and engineers can learn and apply the basics. When I look at what makes a good project manager, I believe that communications leaders are a natural fit for this type of work. The characteristics include: love of their work, clear vision, strong team building skills, structure and alignment, strong interpersonal skills, discipline and excellent communications skills. The most successful individuals in the PR space have all of these attributes.

PMI is the professional association that project managers join and it sets the global standard for best practices in this discipline. The comprehensive authority on project management practices is the “PMBOK” or A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. There are nine key knowledge areas for any project that include: scope, schedule, cost, quality, resources, communications, risk management, procurement and stakeholder management. PMI training covers all of the inputs and outputs for each of these knowledge areas and the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification tests your grasp of each area.

What I’ve learned through PMI is that project managers bring strategy, customer insights and opposition insights to the table – just like strong communications professionals. PMI advocates that project management pros have a combination of technical, leadership and strategic/business management expertise. This is referred to as the “Talent Triangle.” A strong business communications leader often has just these traits as well.

When we look at why projects fail, we see that scope creep is the number one reason followed by over allocated resources and poor stakeholder management. The other big problem is organizations often do not have a systematic and well-planned approach to change management. Some of the factors that drastically improve the results of a project include an engaged executive sponsor, frequent internal team planning sessions, as well as detailed stakeholder planning and outreach. One of the critical roles that project managers play is to manage interdependencies and resources across the organization before, during and after a project is launched. Communicators often have the knowledge and skill set to manage all of these project management details for their organizations.

As communicators we are trained to scan the internal and external environment as we craft the strategy and develop key messages to address the issue. The same effort is true for project managers when they are leading a large scale enterprise wide effort or even a divisional business initiative. Other factors to consider include organizational culture, geo-political issues, employee capability, marketplace conditions, legal restrictions and industry standards or regulations. Even the weather can play a factor in the success or failure of a project. To successfully lead a project, it is recommended that you have a robust risk management plan for each of the possible scenarios. As business communicators we also have to think through all potential scenarios and develop the best approach for our client organizations.

I hope you are more interested in learning about project management and adding this skill to your toolkit!

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