Are you a project manager?
The answer should inevitably be a yes, no matter who is answering the question. We are managing projects all the time, deliberately or otherwise.
However, it may not be apparent to many of us if we aren't aware of the definition of a project.
So, what is a project? A project is a short-term endeavour with a set of specific objectives and a definitive timeline- a start and a finish, given limited resources. When you absorb this definition, you can see you are always managing projects. Getting a degree is a project. So is getting married. But the biggest project that you will ever undertake is managing your own life.
Every project has a stakeholder. Most of the time your success in being a good project manager depends on managing your stakeholder's expectations.
Your career is a project with many different stakeholders- you, your boss, and your family. Suppose you continuously care about what your boss wants but not what your family’s desires. In that case, you're not efficiently managing one of your stakeholders' expectations.
Like most things in life, moderation is critical in managing stakeholder’s expectations. The great philosopher Jalal-ad-Din-Muhammad Rumi was once asked: What is poison? He said anything in excess is poison, even a mother's love for her child. So you see, balance is critical, a little too much to one side, and you risk failure.
Time, cost, scope are the commonly known constraints of a project, while quality and risk are often overlooked. For instance, you can always take a bribe to get a better return on your investment, but it comes with a dent in your consciousness and the risk of getting caught.
People are inferior judges of marginal risks and returns and always think: this is for just once, for the last time. We do it all the time, be it submitting an assignment or lying in a resume. It’s much easier to be principled 100 per cent of the time than 98 per cent of it. We often overlook this insight.
Unlike most projects, the project of life is a little complicated. Most projects have goals that are defined by stakeholders, not by the project manager. But in life, if you let others set your goals, you are doomed. You know your time is limited, but you do not know when it ends. Your constraints are random, and there's no winning in life. As Simon Sinek puts it, it is an infinite game.
Society teaches us that this is a dog-eat-dog world. It wants us to be competitive but being competitive only helps win finite games or run finite projects. Life is infinite, so managing this project requires a different skillset. No wonder, so many good students end up with such bad lives!
The art of being a good project manager is thus not so different from being good at life. You need to identify your goals, create a strategy to achieve them, implement the plan, keep on checking if you are on the right path, and take corrective actions when needed. It sounds simple but doing simple things is the most challenging task in a project manager's life.
One last thing, while you implement your strategy, be sure to build up people around you rather than put them down. The success of your life depends on it.
Mohammad Jishanur Rahman Rumi is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP)