Successful Project Management comes out of the Pocket

At sometime in your life you will be involved in a project, it may be at home or through your work.   You will either experience great success, mediocre success or even failure with a project.  When you start the project your intention will always be to have great success, I have never known anyone who intentionally began a project with the idea of how to go about having the project fail.  However, we have all either been involved in a project or observed a project that failed to be successful.  What does it take to  make a project successful every time? Project Management, or more importantly having someone who takes the position of being the Project Manager.   It has been said that without a manager  “…. who understands how everyone’s piece must fit precisely together, in the right order to produce the final product, the orchestra (or team) is not going  to  perform well,  and the results will be poor.” (Garton &  McCullough, 2004).

In this post I will be using an example of a technology infused project that I was involved in during my high school teaching years in the 1990′s.   This  project began when I received an invitation through an Environmental Science organization that was attempting to unite students from the United States with students from Russia.  The project involved  the students discussing  their ideas about the condition of the environment in their area.  They would also discuss  what might be some possible actions that they could take to help improve the environment or raise awareness about the condition of the environment.  This was particularly interesting because it was 7 years after the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor incident in 1986 and the students were from around that area.   Another part of this program involved the incorporation of a videoconference through the use of a cable connection that the organization was to arrange.  This was definitely considered a high tech adventure because computers were not as common place as they are today and every student did not have emails, not to mention cell phones and text messaging.  In fact, two computers were shared by the science department.

The school that I was working at had just completed a renovation and update and now had a television in each classroom that was connected to  the media center.   The primary use of this system was  to send out the morning announcements and enable educational programs and the news  to be seen by  classrooms.   Because of this capability, I was allowed to have  my students  participate in the project.  According to the organization, the teacher would need to have access to a computer for the entire year and it would be their responsibility to purchase one for the class.  Curriculum would be provided and a list of students with their teacher from Russia would be connected to us as we went through this curriculum together.  Students were expected to write to each other to introduce themselves and use the mail service.  The culmination of the project would be a simultaneous broadcasting between the schools.   The following image shows a MindMap of the organization of this project.

MindMap 1

In this map you can see how management was primarily placed on the teachers.  Because of the lack of project management involving the organization that initiated the project and other key team members,  the project was not  very successful.   More specifically, due to the inability to procure the computer and television time before the end of the school  year prohibited the culminating event from occurring.   Other difficulties involved  scheduling that did not account for the amount of time it took for the mail system to get letters back and forth to students.  In the next MindMap you will see how I reorganized the structure of the project.

MindMap 2

By using this type of organization, the project would result in a better understanding of what was needed  and indicates a better division of responsibilities that would allow for a more successful project.  Notice that scheduling  and training of teachers would be directly part of the sponsoring organization duty along with the arrangement of the broadcast time.  The project was also expanded to include the school administration to provide  funding an support for the project.

Finally, in order for any project to be successful you must have someone to take on the role of the Project manager.   A Project manager can see the whole picture,  has the ability to adjust schedules, and can assign tasks that might become necessary as a project progresses.  They can communicate with each team member to ensure that they are on task and able to provide deliverables on time, as well as, resolve any conflict or misunderstandings by a team member.   They can  control the project’s   financial end.  No project can be successful if it is not capable of having adequate funding to put it into action.  So in the overall picture, project management is critical to the success of a project and having one person as a Project manager is  a step in the right direction.

References:

Garton, C, & McCulloch, E. (2004). Fundamentals of technology project management. Lewisville, TX: MC Press Online, LP.

3 Comments

  • Heidi Barker says:

    Your experience sounds like many others without a project manager. Teachers are usually so swamped with daily classroom tasks to add on trying to figure out a new program with little or no support can be very overwhelming. Your improvement for the program providing training and equipment support would make a positive impact on the project and maybe the culmination goal would have been reached.

  • Kevin says:

    It’s unfortunate that the project wasn’t as successful as it could have been. A project between organizations without leadership in the form of a project manager would seem to be doomed from the start.

  • Greg says:

    It sounds like a hugely frustrating project, especially because it could have been a great collaborative learning process for everyone. It’s unfortunate that the organization that instigated the project, promising the technology you needed for the shared meeting couldn’t come through. It seems like thay should have made sure they could schedule that before initiating the project. Students must have been very disappointed. This shows the need for a manager, someone to track progress and assure that all the pieces come together. Your reworking of the project makes a lot of sense and allocates responsibility well.

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