Communicating Effectively with Project Management Skills

A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.”

– Project Management Institute Book of Knowledge

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

– Attributed to George Bernard Shaw

NISO Note: Maureen Adamson will serve as course moderator and lecturer for an upcoming NISO Training Series on Project Management, beginning February 22, 2019. 

Formal project management is a recent and evolving management discipline and skillset that can trace modern origins back to the early 20th century. One milestone was the development of the Gantt Chart by Henry Gantt in 1917. This is still used today, automated but otherwise unchanged. Another landmark in project management was development of the concept of the critical path, embraced by DuPont and codified in the late 1950s.  Then in 1969, the Project Management Institute formed as a certification body for professional project managers and created the Project Management Book of Knowledge in 1998 as a standard for professional development. 

As the field of project management continued to evolve to meet new needs, 2001 marked the publication of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, adapted to project management and an increasing acceptance that “one size does not fit all” projects or circumstances. While all projects involve delivering on organizational goals, the core principles remain the same: managing time, costs, and quality to achieve project goals while adding new goals of engaging participation and increasing successful collaboration by using incremental or iterative development when appropriate. 

While I have an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, project management training was not part of the academic curriculum.  Yet there are an increasing number of voices suggesting that perhaps this should be required professional training. As a valuable skill for all information industry professionals, project management skills would be useful to help solve many challenges librarians face working in large institutions on initiatives that cut across departmental and organizational lines, especially in these times of rapid change.

My journey into project management began over 20 years ago as Vice President of New Business Development at Reed Reference Publishing, a Reed Elsevier company.  My group focused on new initiatives, often with some risk associated with them.  We were a small group outside the normal lines of business, so we could be light on our feet.  Within my group, all new employees were sent to time management training and equipped with planners, using the same language and skills to prioritize work at our weekly meetings. Our work also involved extensive collaborating across departmental lines and managing key strategic industry partnerships with other outside organizations. Looking for better skills to deal with these demands, I took a 4-day Project Management Training program at the American Management Association, taught by Eugene Spiegle, now with Rutgers University Business School.  Gene became one of my most important professional management mentors for years to come. His excellence in teaching project management includes deep experience spanning decades. I am delighted that he will also be one of our guest speakers for this upcoming NISO Training Series

The primary focus of my current consulting is market research and business strategic planning, with other industry initiatives tracking enabling technologies.  This may also involve development of key products and services in pursuit of business goals, but not professional project management as a standalone service.  However, project management principles have become ingrained how I approach all my work.  For me, project management is time management on steroids, a quantum leap in managing communications, teams, and deliverables for project success. It is my fallback; my vocabulary; and, my management style.  This can be a full, formal Project Management plan for larger projects and bigger teams involving a client, their team, and multiple suppliers, or it can be “project management lite,” using the principles to make sure expectations are clear, with regularly scheduled updates and reviews. Depending on the project, my clients may not even be aware I am using project management skills to manage communications and deliver results.  

There are three major levels of Project Management training:

  • Basic understanding of project management goals, terminology, and techniques to communicate more effectively with project managers and be a better decision-maker and/or team participant.
  • Training to manage projects using project management principles and tools.
  • Training and certification as a professional project manager.

          The sheer variety of types of projects, organizational settings and environmental factors means initial exposure is likely to lead some to seek additional training and “lab work” with a professional, with further training and explorations of how to best apply to the projects and situations one encounters.  To effectively manage a project, training usually requires experience to fully grasp the principles.  Well organized and executed projects also lay the foundations for future successful cooperative relationships and initiatives. 

          This introduction provides the attendee with a basic understanding and exposure to traditional project management techniques and new developments.  The goal is to familiarize the user not only with basic project management but to also lay a foundation for future training for those who would like to do a deeper dive.  Later sessions will include presentations by special guest speakers in education, technology, and librarianship to further explore how they have implemented project management principles in different settings, including for technology projects and in academic libraries.