Being overlean could be your downfall. Why project management is not just for the big firms.
Shazir Mucklai is a startlingly young angel investor and adviser in disruptive startups. He currently runs a six-figure PR firm helping startups commercialize their products and launch their ideas. I say that he is startlingly young because according to his LinkedIn profile, he is still in college.
One of things I love about working with millennials and Gen Z-ers is that they often excel at taking a successful idea and figuring out how to apply it elsewhere. When it comes to project management, Shazir did just that. In a recent article he penned for Forbes, he questions why PM should just be for big companies that can afford whole departments and experts.
Shazir argues that even the smallest start-up or team should implement PM strategies in order to bring clarity, focus and much-needed structure to the growth process and operations. Project management is essential, he claims, because it facilitates the following:
Agreement on “Reason for Being”
According to Shazir, many teams can only provide long-winded explanations of the features of the product or service instead of the benefit it imparts to customers. The question of “what does it do and why?” is usually answered fairly quickly after a project manager is engaged.
Agreement on Goals
Many smaller companies have flat organizational models. But, says Shazir, if every member of a four-person team is the leader, there are four different to-do lists, each in a different order. Mismatched priorities can be resolved by setting strategic, overarching goals with help from a project management orientation.
Agreement on Scope
What starts as a well-targeted, strong idea for a product can easily turn into a feature-bloated monster that does too many things to make sense to customers, warns Shazir. Project management can help small firms or teams manage scope creep before massive development bills put them out of business.
Shazir knows what you’re thinking. “But I don’t have the budget to hire a project manager!” The good news is: you don’t have to. In fact, as a leader in the 21st century business world, becoming properly schooled in PM will benefit not just your organization, but your own career. A de facto project manager can really be anyone who has been trained in the basic principles of PM and is willing to take on the role for the team.
“Project management is like a compass for a startup, helping it use its agility to move toward its real overall goals,” writes Shazir. He cites examples of two small companies he has worked with that have leveraged PM to drastically improve operations. “In Rootstrap sessions, we rely on the product owner to act as a liaison between all the moving parts, maintaining a big picture frame of reference and making key decisions about what to focus on and why. Similarly, when Neon Roots is developing a new product, the scrum master keeps everyone on-task and on-mission, making sure that team members are working together toward a goal instead of pulling in different directions.”
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to add project management to your repertoire of skills. Project management software is often user-friendly and easy to learn, and coursework from PMI will school you in the basics. You may find yourself so intrigued that you go on to become certified!
As Shazir says, just as over-structured organizations falter from lack of agility, under-structured organizations can fail from a loss of clarity. Bringing the traditional PM methodologies of the “big guns” can help your smaller firm or team compete with the best of them.