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Friday, 13 April 2007 14:06

The Author and the Project Manager

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Being a project management author, I probably get asked as many questions about the process of writing a book as I do about the book itself, or even project management. It got me thinking about the parallels between being an author and a project manager.


There are five ingredients, I tell people, to being an author:

  • 20% preparation
  • 20% writing
  • 20% marketing
  • 20% reading
  • 20% rewriting

Since writing a book is in essence managing a project, it should be no surprise that these ingredients also apply to being a project manager.

First, project managers need to spend time up front doing the appropriate research and laying out an effective plan.  Effective preparation can make or break a project, whether studying other projects, learning about the technology involved, or getting to know the stakeholders and organizational politics.

Writing is another major element of project management, including preparing communication updates, assisting with business case development, developing presentations, and more. With 90% of a project manager's job being communication, a project manager must be a good writer and presenter as well.

Project managers also need to invest considerable time in marketing, both to customers and to senior management. In fact, when clients ask me what they should look for in hiring a good project manager, I often tell them to consider people from the marketing field. They have the communication and political savvy plus the project management orientation. Frequently, they can also present well, which is often overlooked as a needed project management skill.

Although it's not the first thing one would associate with the field, reading is another key ingredient of project management, whether it's perusing the latest status reports from the work package owners, studying best practices and lessons learned, or following process methodologies. 

Finally, project managers spend a large portion of their time rewriting. Specifically, they must regularly revise the project schedule. A project schedule should be a living, breathing entity, being frequently altered to adapt to reality. To have a detailed plan posted on a wall, and expect everything to happen as planned is a nice idea, but it's wishful thinking. A good project manager must be alert to activities happening around the project---constantly updating the plan, and raising issues immediately if critical success factors will not be met.

In short, many of the same ingredients necessary to write a book are required for being an effective project manager (and vice-versa). Maybe the pen is mightier than the sword.

Read 4888 times Last modified on Sunday, 13 December 2009 20:33

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