Breaking Down Project Management: How PMBOK Helps The Project Management Student

Many organizations and companies hire project managers to take charge of extensive contracts. They are not the contractors or professionals involved in doing the work, but they understand the essential elements of leadership and organization which are required to make a job involving many smaller jobs and lots of employees run smoothly. During the completion of a major project, there are certain similarities seen from one company to another, even in the case of differing professions.

What Is a Project Manager?

Project managers are not born, they are made. They are usually natural leaders, but even these individuals must study to learn the fundamentals of their profession: what their job is and what it is not. Their skills are not necessarily related to the task of developing a software application, designing a new aircraft, or building a bridge. They connect every separate group within a project, however, and look after certain aspects which are not directly related to the profession in question. One of these includes liaising with clients. The manager is a ‘go-to’ person for every individual in charge of his or her own specific work force involved in a project.

The Project Management Book of Knowledge

The PMBOK or Project Management Book of Knowledge is the standard information taught to all students in accredited PMI project management courses. Teachers cover the intricacies of starting a job, planning, executing the plan, monitoring and controlling a work force, and finishing the job so that every worker can walk away from it while the customer is pleased with the finished product. Within this series of topics are sub-topics such as how to manage time, achieving high quality workmanship, the price of a job, hiring people or renting equipment from other sources, managing people, and keeping the lines of communication open and integrated between the various groups or individuals.

Risk Management

Being in charge is a big responsibility. If something goes wrong, the project manager is accountable. Both the team he/she leads and their client will look to him or her for answers and reparations if the job is not finished on time, if there are major errors, or anything else emerges of concern. This makes risk management one of the critical areas of study for project management students, preparing them to expect and be able to mitigate problems. This is also one of several topics covered by the PMBOK. By using this resource, students learn how to spot potential problems, minimize a crisis before it gets out of hand, or even prevent crises from arising.

The Project Manager’s Role

What if you are managing a project about which you have no intrinsic understanding, involving solar engineering for instance? A project manager’s role is the same: he/she leads, delegates, and uses the various techniques taught on project management courses. The manager might have no idea what type of materials are best for building a plumbing system for a landscaping project, or the best brand of solar thermal tubes, but knows how to find the answers. The PM is given a budget at the very beginning and a specific time line within which, for example, panels should be mounted and irrigation installed. There are always ways to cut costs without cutting corners, just by being clever with hiring choices and use of time.

A problem which some project managers encounter is losing control of a project. In spite of their plans (or because they failed to write these well enough) the job becomes more than it was meant to be. More contractors are hired than necessary. The manager is talked into allowing things to happen which are outside the scope of the plan and exceed the budget. This causes the job to take longer than it was meant to, leading to a potential crisis management situation. A project manager learns to be comfortable guiding contractors towards the ultimate goal and keeping them on track and becomes comfortable saying the word ‘no.’

Author Bio

William Stevens is a writer who studies the field of project management. This article was written to provide a basic understanding of project management, particularly for students that are working towards an online masters in project management.