Project Manager or Air Traffic Controller?

Project Manager or Air Traffic Controller?

By: Rachel Godwin

Do you have days when you feel like you are just trying to keep things afloat? I had a conversation recently where I compared my role at the moment to that of an air traffic controller. At the time, our team had a lot of engagements in process and I was covering for a staff member out on leave. There were some days when I absolutely felt like I was just keeping things in the air and helping move them forward. As I reflected on this later, I thought about how well that describes being a project manager.

What is Project Management?

Successful project management is a big part of creating a lucrative business model. No company, or even department, can survive without making positive progress on projects. At hb&k, we use a variety of tools to make project management easier. We’ve defined our processes by using Lean Six Sigma, which helps determine where a project is and what is coming next. We also use Kolbe surveys to understand each individual’s strengths and we rely on those strengths to make sure the right person is doing a task suited to them.

Below, I’ve described stepping stones to successful project management that can make a huge impact. Consider these stages of project management and think about whether you accomplish them, or where you can improve. If you feel as if there are many areas where you can improve, hb&k can help! Our goal is to help business owners reach their financial goals and successful project management can go a long way in helping you reach them.

Stages of Project Management

Initiating: This step involves determining if a project is necessary. It explores the nature and the scope of the project. Some questions to ask at this point are:

  • What are the objectives of your project?
  • Who needs to be on your team to make your project the most successful?
  • What resources will you need?

Planning: Once the initiation stage is complete with the basic understanding of the project in place, planning can begin. This part gets into detail regarding time, cost, and resources and involves managing risk during the project performance. It is very important to set expectations up front. Planning can be a critical step in ensuring a project’s success. Knowing the team members and their individual unique abilities is incredibly important when assigning roles. A few questions to ask for planning are:

  • What are the responsibilities for each team member?
  • What is the budget for the project?
  • What is the project deadline?
  • What quality control measures are necessary?

Executing: After the project team has appropriately planned the engagement, the team moves into implementing the plan to perform the work to produce the desired deliverable (i.e. product or service). Each team member should understand his/her role, the expectations related to it, and the deadlines involved. There should be internal and external deadlines to be met.

Controlling: This stage overlaps those previously discussed. During each phase of a project, there must be monitoring and controlling to make sure progress is being made timely and correctly. Having conversations early on regarding accountability is helpful. Regular check-ins with the team asking, “Where are we?” as well as maintaining open communication throughout the project allow for redirection and corrections to made as necessary. By laying out the life cycle of the project and building in milestone check-ins, the project has a better chance of staying on target.

Closing: This is the point where the work on the project is completed and delivered, if relevant. It can be helpful to do an After-Action Review for the team to discuss their performance. Asking questions such as those below can be helpful in evaluating how to improve for next time:

  • What went well?
  • What needs improvement?
  • Next time, what will you do differently?

We’ll Be Your Air Traffic Controller

We all have times when we are involved in multiple projects with varying deadlines. It can be a little overwhelming for sure. If you want relief from feeling like an air traffic controller, or if you want advice on how to be better, please contact us.

At hb&k, we love helping our clients understand their teams through Kolbe Analysis as well as develop great processes with the Lean Six Sigma methods. Through years of self-analysis and continuous improvement, we’ve developed the expertise to help your business succeed.