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Why Everyone Should Master Project Management Skills

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Agile, waterfall, MS Project, Excel, or even a plain old Sharpie—you somehow have to manage your work. And most of what we do in our daily lives, if we are in a professional setting, involves a series of projects.

Project management is boring. I know you're telling yourself that, and you think that, and other people tell you that too. “I am a certified project manager” just does not have anywhere near the appeal of something like, “I am the chief marketing officer at YazDeboo” (whatever YazDeboo is, they must make something cool) or “I am a rocket scientist at NASA.”

I get that. But if you're doing project management right it is not boring at all because the art and the science of it is to simultaneously juggle a lot of different mini-initiatives aimed at specific outcomes, while ultimately shoring up your reputation, which is the value you bring to the table.

The outcome of a project affects your brand:

  • How you implement a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, for example, leads your customers to view you in a very particular way.  
  • Hiring someone is another project. Maybe you didn't think of it that way, but it is. The kind of people you hire and the manner in which you onboard them will ultimately affect your organization's character, and character manifests itself in the values stakeholders see in everyday behaviors.
  • Designing or redesigning your organizational chart is another project (and whoa, this can be a bear to undertake). But the manner in which you categorize and stovepipe your institutional structures (and all structures must be put into buckets, even if they're very broad) will affect the way you define the work you're doing. Just to give a very basic example, if you put Digital Communications into the IT shop, the output will be vastly different than if IT serves Digital Communications.

Outcomes are shaped by the way you conduct your projects. Your processes either reinforce your company's ability to function as a unified whole (e.g., a recognizable brand with a recognizable vision, mission, culture and values) or they are crisis-driven, dysfunctional and corrosive.

If you incorporate the principles of project management into your projects large and small— following a work breakdown structure, keeping to a schedule, accepting and modulating stakeholder feedback—you create a safe and stable space within which employees trust that they can do their best work. You're not in crisis mode, and as such, you can grow and flourish without constantly looking over your shoulder.

If you ignore irresponsible, abusive, or corrupt behavior by senior leaders, and ignore the warning signs of trouble, at some point disaster will occur. That disaster will create a cleanup project (or many cleanup projects). And you will naturally attract employees who don't really care about doing things well, but only about covering for messes and looking valuable as they do it. In fact one could say that such employees will actually enable future conflicts, avoiding the unpleasant task of providing negative feedback and instead positioning themselves as "fixers."

Contrary to what most people think, branding is not about ad campaigns and logos. Those are dessert. Your main meal is the unglamorous work you do to keep things functioning every day.

I once worked for a boss who was famous. When I complained about having to do so many dreary things she said to me, “Only a tiny percentage of life is fun. The rest is just horse manure. Roll up your sleeves—plenty of that to go around.”

Copyright 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer or any other organization or entity.

Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D., is a federal communicator with 20 years' experience in the private sector, academia and government. Best known for her work on branding, Dr. Blumenthal now focuses on the discipline of management, particularly the intersections between identity, culture and communication. She has lectured at a variety of schools including The George Washington University and the University of Maryland University College. In her spare time she is an independent community activist, focused primarily on raising awareness about child sexual abuse and domestic violence. All opinions are her own.

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