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Learn step-by-step instructions for managing any project in a clean sequence of five classic phases—initiating, planning, executing, releasing, and closing. This book sets out clearly and engagingly which tasks need to be done and when, how, and why they need to be done. Each chapter on one of the five phases walks you through all the steps in that phase’s workflow, which are laid out in a checklist attached to the chapter. The checklists are graphically supplemented by flow charts and swim lane diagrams. The master checklist serves as a map and tool for project managers to use in the real world to run projects and keep them on track.

Senior project manager and PM mentor Melanie McBride understands the predicament of beginning and junior project managers: "You're at the edge of a tornado, bombarded by overly excited people offering you a Mission Impossible. Everywhere you look there are cool shiny things swirling around your head—the earnest coworker telling you to go agile, the software package promising a turnkey collaboration solution, the PMO with an arm-long list of required processes. So how do you avoid getting whacked in the head by that airborne Mac truck of a customer commit? Oh, and what exactly do you need to do to get those flying monkeys to shut up?"

Project Management Basics slips the spinning project manager into the eye of the storm where things are quiet and it’s easy to figure out what to do next using the author’s detailed checklists and hard-headed advice. She shows that project management doesn’t have to be "a chaotic hot mess, leaving you with an egg-beater hairdo." With McBride’s book and checklists in hand, even first-time project managers can pull off controlled, flying-monkey–free projects.

What You Will Learn

• The essential duties of a project manager• The project management lifecycle in five phases• The what, when, how, and why of PM tasks presented in detailed steps• How to leverage checklists for optimum efficiency and throughput• How to adapt workflow controls to low-PM organizations• How to enhance PM with vogue methodologies without obscuring the basics

Who This Book Is For

This book is for beginning and junior project managers seeking a concise, authoritative guide to the basics of project management, together with checklists, flow charts, and swim lane diagrams for immediate use in real-world projects.



Chapter 1. Stripping Down Project Management to the Chassis

Congratulations, you’re a project manager!
Project management is a vastly complex and complicated endeavor, and like any other complex and complicated effort it’s often hard to know just where to start. In this case it’s not that you can’t find training material or mentors to help you along your journey, it’s that you’re completely overwhelmed by all of the information out there and by the consequences of screwing it all up. You feel like you’re destined to be the featured entrée at a management luau sometime in the distant future if you can’t lead this project team. You’re completely bewildered by all of the processes you must follow and the documentation you must produce. Never fear! There is a light at the end of this tunnel and this book will help you find it. Now take a deep breath and let’s dive right in by stripping down this thing we call project management to the bare bones, the fundamentals, the chassis if you will.
Melanie McBride

The Mechanics


Chapter 2. Getting Started on Your First Project

a.k.a. The Initiating PhaseInitiating phase
Starting projects can be overwhelming. Where do you start, what exactly do you do first, and who the heck do you need to talk to now versus later? These are just a few of the questions racing through your mind when you get assigned your first project, and it can be pretty overwhelming. You’re in the storm path and those swirling, gale-force winds are tugging at your hair but you know that you’re just at the edge and that it’s gonna get a lot worse before you figure out what the heck you’re doing. Welcome to the Initiating Phase of project management! This is real life, where starting a new and complicated endeavor can psych you out. The good news is that most of the time all you’ve got to do is take that first step and get started. That’s what this chapter is all about; getting started.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 3. Doin’ Work

a.k.a. The Planning PhasePlanning phase
If you’ve completed Checklist #1, and the kick-off meeting happened last week, it’s time to start doin’ the hard work of planning the project. For many project managers, the Planning Phase is the most difficult. This is where the bulk of the mechanics will be done and it’s also where you encounter your first, and most serious, soft skill challenges.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 4. Executing Your First Project

a.k.a. The Execution PhaseExecution phase
By this point in time, you should have completed all of the items on Checklist #2; that is, you should have a solid project plan. In the Execution Phase of the project you will move from creating project management artifacts and into using them. Here you will leverage the work you did to kick off the project and the stakeholder management plan to facilitate regular team meetings. You will use your project Change Control Board to participate in the program- or organization-level Change Control Board(s). You will utilize the project schedule to track work and gauge progress. Risks will be triggered, and those action plans you and your team developed to deal with potential risks will be activated. Finally, you will use all of the artifacts you’ve created to generate regular status updates and manage escalations. The bulk of the project work does happen in this phase; however, since you’ve taken care of business in the Planning Phase, Execution for the project manager is about using the tools you developed previously. At this point in time, you are probably feeling a little shell-shocked since the Planning Phase involved a lot of work. Don’t worry; the mechanics of the job will be significantly easier going forward.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 5. Releasing Your First Project

If you will recall, in Chapter 4 I mentioned that the Execution Phase of any project is the longest. In fact you should think of the Execution Phase as having two parts; one part of the work is the execution of the project work and the other is the actual release of the project deliverables. Traditional project management training materials gloss over, or completely ignore, the second part because it’s such a small part of the overall execution of the project work. Here’s the thing: the release work is the final stretch, the last mile, the final shot, the last piece of chicken, etc., and if your team chokes on the release it’s entirely possible to turn what was a successful project into a hot mess with a bad reputation. So as a project manager, how do you avoid that career-deadening move? You carefully plan for, and execute, the release of the deliverables, and I’m going to show you just how to do that here.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 6. Closing Your First Project

By now you should be feeling pretty good; you and your team have successfully released the project deliverables and the project is practically over. All that remains to do is the closure activities, so hang on for a few more checklist items, which once completed, will allow you to pull an Elvis . . . and leave the building! There’s actually not much work to be done during Closing, but the work there is needs to be done in a timely manner. To properly close the project, you and your team need to review the team’s performance and identify areas of improvement for future projects. You will do that by facilitating a project retrospective. You also need to ensure that your team cleans house by disposing of leftover material, publishing any collateral that may still be outstanding, and making sure that all of the project work is appropriately archived. As part of closing down the project, you will also need to create a project summary and review it with your key stakeholders to ensure that each one agrees that all of the committed project work is complete. Finally, you need to take care of your team by formally recognizing their accomplishments and celebrating the successful release. Note that unlike the other project lifecycle phases, much of the closing work is done simultaneously and is quick to complete. Depending on how complicated your project is, you should expect to spend 1 to 2 weeks closing out the project. Getting this work done before the team is fully involved in another project is the hardest challenge for this phase of the project, so you will need to execute the Closing work as quickly as possible. Let’s break down what you need to do.
Melanie McBride

Reality Check


Chapter 7. Chopping Down Your Project Mechanics

Now that you understand what solid project management looks like when the mechanics of the job—things like the schedule, risk management, and communications planning—are executed properly, it’s tempting to believe that’s the best way to manage any project. Okay, it really is, but let’s not forget that projects are still executed in organizations where project management discipline is as ephemeral as dandelion fluff. What do you do if the mere words “Work Breakdown Structure” cause instant rebellion? How do you convince people to devote time to planning the project work when they are wild-eyed and twitchy, just chomping at the bit to get started on the “real work”? Let me teach you what experienced project managers already know: how to go into stealth mode!
Melanie McBride

Chapter 8. PMP-ing Your Project with Flashy Methodologies

In the previous chapter, we discussed specific strategies for leading projects in an environment that is unfamiliar or unsupportive of project management discipline. In that type of environment, you need to dial down the PM terminology and streamline processes. Now let’s flip the coin and talk about the opposite side: some ways to go beyond the basic mechanics we’ve covered so far when you find yourself in a PM-friendly organization. Yes, my friend, this chapter is all about bringing some PMP game to the table. If you’re feeling pretty comfortable with the fundamental mechanics we’ve been discussing so far or if you find yourself awash in a sea of senior PMs and aren’t quite sure how to stand out, then this chapter is for you. Here we will cover some easy-to-adopt strategies for taking your project management to the next level by integrating some advanced techniques, creating and leveraging metrics to help you better predict your team’s performance, and starting to build a foundation of historical data that will become your treasure chest of knowledge later. You don’t need to hold a PMP to employ these strategies. Heck, you don’t even have to be that experienced to use them: and that’s the point! Remember way back in Chapter 1, I told you that the mechanics of project management aren’t that hard and that you can master them with a little effort? Well, the same goes for these next techniques; they are simple to implement and will significantly improve your project management effectiveness.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 9. Steering Your Project with Flexible Checklists

At this point, you should feel pretty comfortable with your understanding of the basic mechanics of project management, so let’s talk a little bit about how to leverage the checklists you find at the end of Chapters 2–6. You can certainly use these checklists as they stand today to guide your work, but don’t stop there! I’ll give you some ideas on how to augment the content of the checklists to further improve your overall effectiveness, and we’ll discuss some tips and tricks for managing multiple projects using these checklists. Think of them as a map and yourself as the wilderness guide for the project team. Your goal is to be able to figure out where to go or what to do next to ensure that the team is able to complete the work of the project, and these checklists will help you do just that.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 10. Hitting the Open Road

We’ve gone through the mechanics of project management all the way from the flick of your key stakeholders’ wrist, starting the project engine to Initiate the project, down through the valley of Planning and over the hills of Executing, drifting sideways through the Release and ending with a slick, skidding, parking-brake stop at Closing. Whew, what a rush! Okay, what that really means is that you’ve read through this book and are ready to tackle that next project, so again, where do you start? Once you’re on that journey to focus on the mechanics of project management, how do you start immediately injecting some of the learning now without waiting until you kick off another project? Are there any road hazards you need to be watching out for? Further, let’s inject a little reality here and talk about what do you do when your project is a failure, shall we? Last, what’s over that next rise, or in other words, where should you take your PM practice once you master the mechanics? Hold on, folks, those are the topics we’ll be covering next.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 11. The End of the Road

We come now to the end of this particular road, and I truly hope that you’re able to see the light at the end of the project management tunnel now. When you’re new to this game it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of information out there and it’s hard to figure out where to start. Throughout this book I’ve preached a basic concept: the quickest way to improve your project management efficiency is to focus on the mechanics of project management. Mastering these foundational processes will absolutely improve your skills and your confidence, resulting in increased effectiveness as a project manager. This does take some focused effort on your part but the return on your time is immediately realized. People are often confused about what it is that makes project management so hard. It’s not the actual work of planning a project, for instance; it’s the soft skills needed to get all of your stakeholders on the same page that’s hard. Once you’ve figured out these foundational processes and how to do them, you’ll have more time to devote to leading your team and managing your stakeholders.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 12. Appendix A: Project Management Checklists

The Initiating Phase of the project is where it all starts. Key information is gathered, scoping is performed, and the project kick-off meeting is conducted. Complete these major tasks and you are ready to enter the project’s Planning Phase. These items are arranged in chronological order, but note that you may end up completing them in any order; the important thing is to do them all before proceeding to the next phase of the project.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 13. Appendix B: Estimation Considerations

During the Planning Phase as part of the work to build the Network Diagram, you and your team need to estimate just how long each task in the WBS will take to perform. This is a quagmire of drama and frustration for the unprepared project manager, so I thought I’d share some ideas and simple techniques to help you chart the quickest route through the swamp that is estimation.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 14. Appendix C: Decision-Making Models

Project teams need to make many decisions of various magnitudes constantly throughout the life of the project so it’s a good idea to agree on a decision-making methodology early. This methodology should be identified and agreed upon near the end of the Initiating Phase or at the beginning of the Planning Phase, so let’s talk about the four most commonly used methods for making decisions. Here, we will cover the strengths and weaknesses of the models and provide some guidance on when to use each one.
Melanie McBride

Chapter 15. Appendix D: Additional Resources

When you do a web search for project management resources, you will find a bewildering array of information sources, which can be completely paralyzing. When searching for project management resources on the Web, my recommendation is to start with any links associated with the Project Management Institute (PMI), as these are peer-reviewed postings and publications representing what are considered to be the best practices in project management.
Melanie McBride


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