Project Management for Entrepreneurs: Throwing Away the PMBOK
By Megan Strand
When I was first exposed to the basic principles of formal Project Management, I wanted to run screaming. Well, actually, I should clarify. It was really when I purchased and opened the “bible” of formal Project Management, the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), that this urge to flee came over me. The PMBOK (pronounced PIM-bock) starts out simply enough, “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” and then quickly takes a 180 degree turn into the world of overwhelm and mind-numbing tedium.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m a person who loves my projects. I mean, I really, really love my projects. Mention something that even remotely smells like a project to be managed, I’m taking a giant step forward to volunteer. My entire professional career I’ve spent managing some type of project or another. I think it goes back to the definition of a project – “a temporary endeavor”, and back to my passion about creativity. Because there is a defined start and end with parameters to delineate the desired outcome, I’m free to be creative about how that outcome is accomplished. I love putting all the pieces together in just the right place to complete that puzzle in the end. And, quite frankly, I love that there is an end. I need that sense of completion and closure so I can move on to my next puzzle.
So when I first opened the PMBOK, I was incredibly disappointed and confused. How could this book, this book about projects be so…so…boring?
Again, it goes back to the parameters. Whereas I enjoy working within general parameters, the “science” of Project Management was developed to put a heck of a lot more infrastructure underneath those general parameters. They call them “processes”. And there are many, many, many of them. Processes to explain how to do a process.
And here I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Project Managers are predominantly involved in industries that are incredibly complex and detail-oriented. Technology. Aerospace. Construction. When you’re designing a process to ensure that quality standards are met on the design of a surgical instrument that will perform complex surgeries on heart patients, you need to make darned sure that there is pretty close to zero room for error, hence the proliferation of processes. Same thing when you have billions of dollars on the line and a delay of a day can cost millions. The precision of Project Management becomes important stuff. As an aside, some Project Managers would benefit from laying off their addiction to processes for a while and leave some room for creativity, but that’s an entirely different subject.
Back to my story about the PMBOK. When I put down the PMBOK and started to research how formal Project Management principles are utilized in real life, the incredible value of basic project management principles in a small business setting became crystal clear to me. As an entrepreneur, attempting to read the PMBOK cover to cover is the equivalent of reading the manufacturer’s design specification guide of my dishwasher, when I could’ve just loaded the thing with dirty dishes and hit the “on” button. Formal project management processes are incredible useful tools but knowing the detailed inner-workings behind each and every process is overkill for most small businesses and entrepreneurs. The PMBOK is a useful reference guide but not a recommended reading for most small business owners and entrepreneurs, unless they suffer from insomnia.
A recent study showed that the value of project management practices is highest in companies that are in the initial stages of adopting project management principles. Adding general project management principles to any small business or entrepreneurial venture almost guarantees a decrease in risk and an increase in productivity. It could quite literally save your business. Why? It goes back to those parameters again…the freedom is in the structure.
Megan Strand (PMP) is a project-driven marketing/communications professional with over ten years experience achieving significant results in for-profit and not-for-profit domains. Her professional values include unwavering commitment to quality, results-focused solutions, personal integrity and social responsibility. Megan runs a professional blog, InCouraged.