Recently, someone asked me about the non-negotiables of our approach to project management. My response will tell you a lot about our project management approach and practice.

  • The project charter (the Define phase) is critical. Never skip it, but don’t spend much time on it. It’s a draft and will change; the important thing is to create a language for communicating with stakeholders. 
  • Start with the business objectives and make sure you know who the sponsor is ("Why are we spending money on this instead of something else?"). Even not-for-profits are in a zero sum game. There are only two outcomes: Projects either increase revenue or avoid cost. 
  • Project objectives matter (learning objectives for instructional content development) because this is what you as project manager are promising to your stakeholders. The best question to ask is, “What will the learners be able to do after the learning event that they can’t do now?” then, “How will you measure that?” 
  • Spend a lot of time building and discussing the project scope and its nuances. This model can drive everything else if done with the right mindset. Use flipcharts and sticky notes for the first draft, then worry about how to make it digital (we usually just snap a picture with our phones). 
  • Forget about estimating the time for tasks. In the real world, the critical path is not real. Everything is changing too fast. Most projects start with a fixed end date, so we work back from there and figure out these three things: what task, who owns it, and what is the last date it can be finished? That process creates a dashboard.  
  • Emotions drive project communication and success. People need to stop trying to control projects—it’s impossible. Instead, adapt, stay calm, and laugh at yourself. The minute you get tense, you make mistakes that create rework for you. If you run out of time or money (which you will), there are only two choices: Pretend you didn’t, and do the whole thing poorly, or intentionally trim the scope and do a smaller piece at the quality your sponsor needs. 
  • If you aren’t freaked out at some point in your project, you are doing it wrong. Or no one really wants it.

To be more effective in planning, organizing, and controlling your projects register for an upcoming Project Management for Learning Professionals Certificate program.