WARNING! This article is right on the verge of being way too scientifically-techie. However, if you suffer with me through the first part as I lay the groundwork, you’ll see how one critical point can be established. Here’s the point…the role of a project manager changes as they mature through their career much the same way that potential energy changes into kinetic energy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about this article…
Let’s get the Techie Part out of the Way
First, a couple of definitions to refresh your memory from High School Physics. Many different types of energy exist throughout nature. Two particular types include Kinetic Energy and Stored Energy.
- Kinetic Energy is the ability to move. Kinetic Energy is the energy of motion and allows for the ability to do work.
- Potential Energy, on the other hand, is the same as stored energy. This is when an object has the potential for creating energy but it has not been released yet.
An example that is frequently used to show the difference between the two – and their inherent relationship – is that of a roller-coaster. The higher the roller coaster goes up the track, the more potential it has for releasing energy. Once it has reached the top of the hill and paused for a second, it then has the greatest potential to release that energy. As soon as the coaster goes down the track the energy is released in the form of Kinetic energy, or the energy of motion.
Kinetic vs. Potential Project Managers
Now that we have the techie part out of the way, let’s change gears and apply the principles of kinetic and potential energy to project managers and project management tools.
Early on in a project manager’s career, they are focused on a whole lot of motion. They have two speeds…fast and faster.
These project managers are running from meeting to meeting, providing updates, completing status reports, updating risks, working with project management software tools and keeping up with every incessant detail about the projects they are managing. They go a million miles a minute, put in long days, and they do get a lot done…however, it take massive amounts of energy to accomplish these tasks.
This is exactly what needs to happen in the early days of a project manager’s career, as it sets a great foundation for the future. The problem is that you can’t (and probably shouldn’t) keep up with this frenzied and frenetic pace your entire career. Not only will this wear you out, but you’ll also look funny doing it. This is where you change gears from kinetic energy to potential energy.
Based upon the experience acquired in your kinetic younger years, you now carry with you much wisdom, insight, and judgment. You have moved from the role of being a kinetic doer to being a leader with a whole LOT of potential energy to get things done – with or without basic project management tools. Let’s look at some of the project management techniques that project managers will use during different parts of their careers.
Project Management Tools of the Kinetic Project Manager
The following are some of the project management tools that a newer project manager would have at their disposal.
- Software – This could be existing software that a company already has in place or it may be one of the initiatives of a project manager that is new to an organization to implement a new project management software program. This makes sure that everything is running smoothly and according to plan.
- Reports – Project Managers early on in their careers love generating lots of reports. They have a report for everything, as they should. They get dig into the details of numbers, open cases, quality scores, and anything and everything that any stakeholder at anytime would want to know about a particular project.
- Meetings – Regularly scheduled status meetings are one of the tools that are a mainstay of a project manager early on in their career. This provides the opportunity to make sure everyone is up to speed with the reports that have been generated from the software about the projects that are being managed.
- Lots of Paperwork and Copies – What’s a meeting without tons of handouts? Project Managers early on in their career will make sure that everyone has every scrap of paper that will be necessary for them to know where a project stands and help them make the right decisions on moving the project forward.
- Long Presentations – Early on in a project managers career they will have a tendency to create long and detailed presentations. They are convinced that everyone loves the details as much as they do and they want to share this with everyone at any and every opportunity they get.
- Education – Anything related to education at this point is primarily centered around learning and taking away nuggets of wisdom to help them do their job better.
It is with this flurry of kinetic activity that a newer project manager will be rightly engaged.
Project Management Tools of the Potential Project Manager
After many years, this kinetic energy can now be converted into potential energy. They (the Project Managers) are not going to be running around like crazy all day. However, when you really need to get a problem solved you can tap into their potential energy to release a flood of kinetic energy. The tools and techniques that a project manager uses at this point are very different.
- Influence – This is when you can bring in the big guns i.e. when there are problems on a project. Once a project manager has made it to this point in their career, it is sometimes just a single request or word that will help resolve a problem that has plagued a less experienced project manager for days or weeks. An experienced project manager will bring with them a cache of experience, battle scars and pain that they can reflect upon. Over the years they have done countless favors for others and can reasonably and justifiably call those favors in when they need to get the job done.
- Big Picture Thinking – At this stage of a project manager’s career they are not encumbered with the details. They look at the big picture. They look at trends. They look at “it’s good enough” in order to move on with the work at hand. They focus on those things that really matter and let others worry about those things that don’t matter one bit.
- Meaningful Escalations – This quality ties into having influence that I mentioned above. If something does come to a grinding halt in one area, it takes one phone call or one email to move mountains. It goes something like this…”I know you told this person that it would take 2 weeks to finish this, but you and I both know that the actual time to get it done is just a matter of hours. Can’t you just shuffle something around, get this done and we’ll be out of your way. And, if you get any heat for this, just have them come see me.” Now that’s a meaningful escalation that doesn’t even need escalation!
- Education – At this point in a project manager’s career, their education is focused on teaching and giving and helping others do their jobs better.
A project manager needs to be full of motion early on in their career in order to get the job done. However, as they advance in their career this frenzied pace can be stored up and utilized later in the form of potential energy. Use this energy to get a whole lot done in just a little bit of time and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the roller coaster ride. You can also try our software free for 30 days and unleash a fury of potential energy. Use our Project Status Reports, Progress Reports and Resource Reports to make sure everyone is enjoying the ride with you at the helm!