I've been writing a lot about Project Management recently and I realise it's because I've been involved in a lot of projects this year, from moving house (eeeek) to managing our Early Morning Breakfast Tasters to helping on events for one of the charities I'm involved with.
It seems as though I've had a lot more projects on the go this year and I've been doing a lot of juggling and plate spinning and at times life has felt a lot like a circus.
Many, many years ago I was Special Events Director at the New York City Ballet and it felt then as though each major event was like climbing a mountain and once I got to the top, it would feel as though I was on a runaway train I had no control over. Certain tools and techniques I learned back then through trial and error have stood me in good stead, but it's the trial and error part that stands out.
Like most things, the longer I managed projects, the better I got at it and when we created our Project Management courses a lot of what I knew worked went into the workshops so others didn't have to go through a lot of the trial and error agony that I did.
The biggest issue to me about project management is communication. That's the bit I wish I'd been taught over 40 years ago. When I look back now, I remember just how stressed I got over the projects I was involved in and as I unpick that stress, it was overwhelmingly to do with communication - how I communicated and how I was communicated to.
There are loads of programmes that teach Prince II and loads of software you can download to help you manage the organisational side.
What Project Management training will do for you that those kinds of training can't is to focus on getting buy-in, delivering difficult messages, motivating people when things get bogged down, managing your own mistakes, managing other people's mistakes, anticipating the train-wreck and then pre-empting it if at all possible.
Of course all of those skills are tied up with the organisational side of any project, but it's the volatile mix of people and emotions that can make communication tricky and leads to the most stress. When things would go wrong in the past I found myself bouncing off the walls with stress and beating myself up and spending a lot of time trying to figure out what went wrong and who was to blame.
Now, when something goes wrong my only focus is on how to fix it, how to progress. I only care about what went wrong if it helps me pre-empt the same thing happening again, and I don't care two hoots about who's to blame.
What changed for me over the years was learning better project management communication skills: being really clear and checking and double checking that people know what is expected of them; getting everyone involved in discussing options and problems; getting support and delegating.
I won't fib and say that I'm never stressed when it comes to projects, but I can say that the level of stress is minor compared to that which I put my younger self through.
Critical paths are crucial, risk assessments essential, contingencies vital; all elements that contribute to the success of a project.
However, the bottom line as far as I'm concerned and is as important as all those fundamentals is getting the communication right. I can only say that though I don't like to dwell on regrets I do wish I had done the kind of Project Management training Impact Factory runs today!
Check out Impact Factory's Project Management courses.
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory