Some unfortunate misperceptions make project management rate on most people’s list of preferred activities somewhere between putting the garbage out and deliberately stubbing their big toes-that is, somewhere between tedious and painful.
The first misperception is that it is an incredibly boring distraction from “real work.” Whatever your current vocation, you’re probably engaged in it because you enjoy it, and are good at it. Taking time away from what you normally do to focus on project management just doesn’t feel right.
The reality, though, is that without an appropriate focus, all that real work could be for nothing-what you build might be beautiful, but it won’t help anyone if it’s not what the customer needed, costs twice as much as planned, or is completed a month late.
So, at the very worst, we should agree that it is a necessary evil. By the end of this book, I hope to convince you that it is also an incredibly useful skillset both inside and outside of work, and can really help you showcase your other abilities.
It Takes Too Long
The second misperception that drives people’s view of PM is that it takes a huge amount of time. This can be true. If you try to do everything that traditional project management demands, you can certainly feel like managing your projects is turning into a full-time job.
What is needed is a balance between the science and the art of project management.
It’s Too Hard
The other negative perception is that it’s just plain difficult. Personally, I believe that anyone can pick up these skills and apply them in a useful manner. I also believe that most people have already mastered more difficult disciplines in their current jobs. Why, then, is project management so scary?
Although it’s easy to argue that most people will need to manage a project of some sort at some point in their lives, it’s still not an area that’s generally covered at school or even at college.
Another reason for the perception that it is so difficult is that many project management tools are complicated! The first time I opened Microsoft Project I was completely perplexed-what was I meant to be doing? Eventually I borrowed someone else’s existing project plan and adapted it, slowly learning the quirks of the software. Since then, the number of project documents I’ve seen written in Excel, PowerPoint, or even text files continues to convince me that many project management tools are just too complex for most people.