I’ve worked on all sort of projects over the years, managed in all sorts of ways. Projects with project managers so informal that you hardly realise that’s what they’re doing, through to those with processes so onerous that there’s no time left to work on the project tasks directly and the project has been scrapped before it even shipped. I’ve even managed projects myself.
As often is the way in small teams and start-ups where there’s no extra resources for a dedicated project manager, it can fall to the lead designer or lead developer to take responsibility for getting the project out the door. Sometimes that’s been me, and the end result is that like it or not you become the de facto project manager. It becomes your responsibility to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing, doing the right thing, and have a good grip on when it is they will be finished.
It’s tempting at this point to be laissez-faire and glibly add “…and that’s not easy” but the truth of the matter is that armed with the right knowledge it doesn’t have to be all that hard. I’d actually go as far as to say that with a small team and armed with the right knowledge it’s not hard at all. Many of the skills we use day-to-day as designers and developers (logical deduction, anticipating responses, predicting possible outcomes..) are precisely those needed for good project management. So how do we go about equipping ourselves with the nuts-and-bolts knowledge to actually pull this off?
Well, this is why I was excited to learn that my friend Meri Williams was writing a short book on The Principles Of Project Management, and was even more thrilled to be asked to participate as an expert reviewer during the process.
Meri’s book aims to teach exactly what you need to know to be able to keep your project out of the weeds when the project management responsibility falls on your shoulders. More than that, it’ll help you make your project a success, provided that you’re not trying to build an online pet store or something. We all know those never work. The best bit is that at just 300 pages (one of those thin ones you can soak up over the space of just a few days) it’s full of really practical advice on dealing with schedules, people, managers, co-workers who don’t fall into either of the previous two categories and hardly mentions Excel at all.
That’s the best kind of project management. The book’s available direct from SitePoint as either a physical item, or search- and environment-friendly PDF.