Project Management Concepts Through Interview Questions for Project Managers – 3

The aim of this series of articles is to introduce project management concepts. Interview questions one may face for project Manager positions, are used as a vehicle to introduce these concepts. This is the third part of the series and covers additional concepts. The series is going to be in ten parts, and each article in the series will discuss five questions that you may get asked and explain the related questions. Concepts introduced should help you prepare for PMP certification that is often required for a Project Manager position.

Project managers need diverse skills besides being a professional manager.

What are the additional skills a project manager might need?
A PM needs to be skilled in all the knowledge areas required for project management. Strong leadership qualities are a necessity for the person. Planning, vision, leading the team and such skills are needed that make for good generals. He has to take a bunch of disparate people to a common goal. Business environment imposes other constraints like a given budget and time limits.

Processes and process groups are important concepts in project management.

How does one define a process and a process group?
The emphasis on process arises from the fact that when a process, or a clearly defined way of doing things, is used risks of making mistakes are reduced. That in turn, means that the end product of the process comes out with minimal flaws. A process needs to define not only the required actions but also the sequence in which they should be invoked. An activity as elaborate as a project needs to have processes defined for many tasks. Each of these processes should define clear inputs, defined outputs and the tools and techniques to be used on the inputs. As a process goes through various stages of its life, different sets of processes are required to get the required tasks done. These groups have been defined as process groups in the Project Management Book of Knowledge. Planning process group is one such example.

While discussing the qualities of a PM, reference was made to knowledge areas.

What specific knowledge areas apply to the successful execution of a project?
Communication management must be the most critical thing in any endeavor involving human beings. Management of scope of projects has to be next most important knowledge area. Keeping the scope well-defined is a necessary condition for its success. Executing a project in terms of its scope is not sufficient. Given enough time and money, possibly, any project of any scope can be achieved! Time and cost/budget management are two other relevant knowledge areas. Quality management knowledge needs to be added to the required knowledge areas as a defined level of quality is a must. Project integration knowledge puts it all together and thus is a necessity. These main knowledge areas are supported by a few more. Monitoring and controlling of risks, is vital as is procurement of material and at the right time. Since all of these activities are to be conducted by human being, human resources management is another required support area.

Project Integration Management covers activities that ensure all activities undertaken work towards success of the project. All the processes need to be geared toward that goal.

What processes are needed?
Project charter development is like an anchor point. That is what defines what exactly the project is. All the relevant plans are the next most important set of activities. These would include project management plan development, direct and manage project execution and monitor and control. The final set of activities is the closing of the project or the current phase. Changes are inevitable. What needs to be done is that an integrated change management is in place so that these changes do not cause any chaos.

What are the important check items a PM should keep in mind always?
A PM needs to be constantly aware of a few key issues. Risk is one such issue. A PM should be able to take lowest risk actions. That requires that he/she is constantly aware of the risks. Assumptions, issues and dependencies applicable to decisions taken, defined scope and just about everything else should be clearly known to the PM. RAID is a mnemonic applied to these factors. For a PM, being on top of RAID is vital.

Part 4 will take up another five questions. 10 articles will cover 50 questions between them.

Management Concepts: Reality Or Myth

Management concepts always fascinated me. I always envied the MBA grads until I completed my Executive MBA. I went through a lot of case studies and concepts, which were based on the actions or activities performed by the organizations due to which they were successful. Many a times I found out those companies who out performed faded out in the long run. I was skeptical about the studies, which were made and the publications, which glorified their existence. When I wanted to make a point I could not rely on the studies that was published to justify management concepts. I consoled myself that a lot of activities and decisions that are made can give success and may be in the long run few decisions can matter in terms of defining the existence. The activity and decision, which gave the company, the cutting edge may be kept aside and not mixed up with the overall failure of the organization in the long run.

As we all know, success and failure depend upon a lot of factors and sometimes are out of the reach of the executives who take decision for the organization. The organization can have a great strategy and the strategy could be followed extremely well but still success can be something more than the strategy because an organization without a strategy can also become successful. Product differentiation, value proposition and cutting edge technology may give you a position in the market place, but may not be sufficient enough to become successful in the market place. I was fascinated by the quote provided by the representative of one of the venture capital organization who said that the companies are successful because they resolved their problems better than their competitors. It is as simple as that. An example of organization’s success is not enough if the other organizations just imitate because the result has many contexts, which may not suit to the organization that is imitating.

I always thought of starting my own organization and a dear friend of mine told me that 20% of organizations only succeed. I thought that was a great encouragement. There were many organizations that made profit after 10 years of existence. It always made an impression in my mind and made the perspective of business when the long-term was always the first priority. The organization may be doing great for the time being, but it’s existence will only depict when it sustains its success for a longer period of time otherwise the success looses it’s value. Every organization wants to be a success, but the only aspect is to take the right approach the right time at the right place. I do not believe in luck rather I believe in hard work. I believe in the solution that suits the long-term survival of the organization. I believe in the road map and do not believe in imitating successful organizations’ strategy.

This makes me harder to do a case study to define the management concepts. May be I will define the concept based on the success story now and contradict it in the future. That is the reason why the concepts change so rapidly and everybody wants to know the latest management concept. Nobody can see the future and can predict the result of the action or decision that will bring in future. That is why I am very safe if I imitate the successful strategy.

Three Important Strategic Management Concepts

Strategic management and planning can be vitally important to a corporation. It is important for a company to know where they are currently, as well as where they are planning to go in the future. It is also important to have specific goals that are to be met according to a set timeline, in order to develop a business properly. Here are three strategic management concepts that should be at the forefront of any business.

Effective Utilization of Resources

In order to succeed, a company has to make good use of its available resources. This includes human resources as well as financial resources. It is important for a company to fully understand what it has to work with, so that it can develop a plan to leverage these resources in the most effective manner. Once this understanding is achieved, a company is better prepared to develop a plan of action that will allow it to reach its goals.

Continual Evaluation of the Process

Simply developing a plan of action is not enough. There must be a continual evaluation process in place. By evaluating the process on an ongoing basis, a company will be able to adjust the plan if conditions change. This evaluation process is also important to make sure that the plan is having the desired effect. If the overall business plan is not proving to be effective, the evaluation process will show early indications of the problem so that adjustments can be made quickly.

Identification of Risks and Opportunities

Within every company process, there are risks as well as opportunities. The strategic management process can help a company identify these factors and evaluate them so that the best course of action can be chosen. In some cases, the possibility for opportunity may outweigh the risks involved, but the opposite may be also true. Without a good strategic management process, a company is at a definite disadvantage.