How to Teach Yourself About Project Management (In-depth Version)
(NOTE: This link-filled article is for those who want to go a little deeper than the quick PM (project management) study I outlined in my How to Teach Yourself About Project Management… in under 3 hours (and for less than $10)!! )
If you have days or weeks to devote to your PM self-teaching quest (and you’re willing to spend a little money for a couple of reference books), you can follow the five steps outlined below to:
- Get a deeper, broader perspective on the field of PM.
- Work through some suggestions that will help you apply some PM best practices to your specific organization and work situation.
1. Obtain a few good, basic PM references that you can revisit frequently. You don’t need to read these documents entirely, simply have them at hand to examine as questions arise. I recommend the following free documents:
a. The Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) – This document, put together by PMI’s Standards Committee, identifies and provides basic descriptions of nearly every proven and generally accepted PM practice. You will probably revisit it regularly to provide you with either PM fundamentals or broader PM context as you consider a particular PM author’s recommendations. I keep mine on my desk beside my dictionary and use it all the time. You can download this from this web site at http://www.cs.bilkent.edu.tr/~cagatay/cs413/PMBOK.pdf
(NOTE: If you’re thinking about pursuing PMI’s PMP (project management professional) certification, check out my video tour of some great free online training that can help you see what you’re getting into. See Stuck Pursuing PMP Certification? Take Firebrand Training for Free! [A Video Tour]
b. American Society for the Advancement of Project Management’s (asapm) Competency Model provides “The Competency Framework: A structured list of the minimum competencies that Project Managers and key stakeholders must demonstrate—with the target competency levels for each.” While PMI’s PMBOK (see item a., above) defines essential PM Knowledge areas, asapm’s Competency Model focuses on what those involved in PM must be able to do to get the job done. It identifies “… roles of Project Manager 1 (Team Leaders or managers of small projects), Project Manager 2 (medium or large, but less-complex projects) and Project Manager 3 (Managers of large, complex Projects and Programs)” as well as the roles of other stakeholders, including sponsor, resource manager, Project Office staff, and project team members.
c. Wideman Comparative Glossary of PM Terms by Max Wideman – This amazing, frequently-updated on-line reference tool provides definitions of nearly any PM term or concept you are likely to encounter, along with a specific citation of the source from which the definition is drawn. Frequently, there several different definitions of the same term, depending on the reference cited. You should bookmark this powerful source and visit it whenever you are learning a new PM term or concept.
2. Do some broad study to get an overview of PM. I recommend the following free resources:
a. This free PDF document: 10 Steps to Project Success (from The Project Management Minimalist)
b. These free videos (use the above “10 Steps…” PDF document as a reference): Free Video Series: Become a Project Management Minimalist (8 videos, less than 1 hour total)
c. This free, 37-minute podcast: Become a Project Management Minimalist (includes Team Challenges)
d. Part I: The Project Management Framework in PMI’s A Guide to PMBOK. The three chapters contained in this section of the Guide will provide a broad overview of the larger management context in which PM takes place and will provide an overview of PM processes.
e. Summary of Key Project Manager Actions & Results. This free handout, available from my website, will help you see in specific performance terms what results project managers should be achieving and the specific actions which they should take to achieve those results.
f. Worth Sharing: Essays & Tools to Help Project Managers & Their Teams — My latest book contains 300 pages, 54 chapters… and is “an unlikely collection…” of wide-ranging material. It’s guaranteed to broaden your perspective about managing projects, teams and your own mental health as a project manager. Read it online for free or buy the Kindle, epub or paperback hard copy.
… and the following low-cost resources:
g. The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects! [122-page eBook, just $9.95]
h. The PM Minimalist Mentor: Scripted Coaching Tools to Guide Your Project Team — Keyed to the Project Management Minimalist book (preceding), the Mentor will guide you through team meetings from the absolute beginning of your project through sign off and completion.
i. The PM Minimalist Support System & Freebies collection has lots of other resources (Most are free!) that can help with all sorts of PM chores.
j. Part 1: Project Management Power in Sunny and Kim Baker’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Project Management [Alpha Books, 1998, ISBN 002-861745-2] provides a friendly and practical overview of PM. – Retail price: $16.95.
k. Part I: Your Deliverables, Phases, and Project Life Cycle and Part II: Your Essential Project Actions from my own The Manager’s Pocket Guide to Project Management [HRD Press, 1999] provides a condensed and performance-oriented overview of PM, interweaving basic definitions of terms and concepts. – Retail price: $10.95.
3. Informally evaluate your own or your organization’s current PM practices. After you’ve completed steps 1 & 2 above, you might want to see how well some of these PM fundamentals are being practiced in your organization. Below are a couple of free handouts that you can use to organize your thoughts and guide your analysis. Depending on your local management context, you could simply use these tools yourself and reflect on your findings or you could seek broader input from stakeholders, project team members, customers, or senior managers. Either way, applying one of these tools will help you figure out what PM concepts and practices you need to learn more about.
a. Project “Post Mortem” Review Questions – This set of questions can help you reflect on what went wrong, what went right, and what needs improving in your PM efforts.
b. Critical Attributes of ID Project Success – If you develop training or documentation, you can compare your PM practices to those identified in this list. The more of these practices your team employs, the greater your chance of project success.
4. Find some examples of well organized project plans and figure out what you can learn (or borrow) from them. Contact people in your organization or your industry who have created successful project plans and ask them to share these plans with you. Better yet, if their project plans are on disk, ask them to give you the files so you can use them as templates for planning your own projects. Typically, project plans are in Word, Excel, or MS Project file formats, so you can easily open them with your own software and edit them. Look for examples of project charters, project schedules, work breakdown structures (WBS), lists of deliverables, lists of phases or activities, resource lists, and so on. As you examine each of them, ask yourself, “How could I adapt this approach to improve my next project plan? … to improve my next PM tracking effort?”
- The Templates/Tools collection of my Project Management FREEBIES website has links to many sources of detailed project plans or templates which you might be able to adapt to your own needs.
5. Now go plan and manage your own project.At this point, you’re ready for some real-world practice. So gather up all the tools, guidelines, checklists, and so forth that you’ve acquired in the preceding steps and put them to work. For more specific, in-depth help along the way, including worksheets, guidelines, etc., you might want to revisit the texts I mentioned in Step 2, above. In particular, my eBook,The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects!, has most of the essential PM tools to help you create important project artifacts. Finally, the second edition of my book The Project Manager’s Partner contains a total of 57 tools, worksheets, and so on to help you plan and manage projects.
How about upgrading your entire organization’s PM skill set?
Check out this downloadable PDF, Recipe for a Do-It-Yourself, Hands-on Project Management Basics Class for 10 Students…
Posted: June 11th, 2010 under ID Project Management, Inspiration and Motivation, Project Management.
Tags: asapm, Firebrand, Max Wideman, PDU, PM, pmbok, PMI, PMI Standards Committee, PMP, Project Management, project management basics, Project Management Minimalist, project management processes, project management training, team, team building