What Associations Can Learn From the Art of Project Management

Organizations can be more effective and efficient when they take a few pages out of the project manager’s playbook.

If anything with a beginning, middle, and end loosely qualifies as a project, associations should be experts at them: meetings, publications, advocacy, mentorship programs, and so forth. And many are.

Project management, though, is still often seen as a technical discipline or just a series of deadlines. But if associations become better acquainted with the art of project management, they’ll be able to tap existing resources more thoughtfully, resulting in better outcomes.

You don’t have to be a project manager to successfully borrow from the field’s principles. Consider these tips to help you get things done more effectively.

Clear Communication Is King

When you’re working on a long-term, multilayered project with a lot of steps and a lot of people, things can get messy quickly if you’re not careful. Project managers avoid this by checking in regularly with team members and clearly explaining what each person needs to do. A vague request or overcomplicated instructions can derail employees and, consequently, the entire project.

“Communication is the most important aspect in project management, because what project managers do a majority of the time is communicate to coordinate efforts,” says Sarmann Kennedyd, assistant teaching professor in Northeastern’s Master of Science in Project Management program, in a post on the school’s blog.

Of course, this goes for all professionals. So what can employees take from the field of project management? When you begin a task, create a communication method where you establish what channels you’ll use and the specific purpose of each one. For example, you can say that you’ll chat in Slack for quick questions, leave notes on your project-management platform to relay client feedback, and use email to send weekly updates on the project’s status. With a plan in place, team members will know where to find the information they need.

A Plan Can Give You Purpose

A key component of project management involves developing a project plan—a document that spells out the project’s purpose, how it’ll be executed, who the stakeholders are, and the desired outcome. Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, who goes by “The Project Management Champion of the World,” and who authored the recent Harvard Business Review book on the discipline, has created his own project management framework—based on Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur’s model—which he calls the Project Canvas. The framework has three domains:

  • Foundation: The purpose and desired outcome of the project
  • People: Who’s involved in the project and each person’s role
  • Creation: How the project will be completed

The framework ensures that every project has a purpose, Nieto-Rodriguez wrote in his Harvard Business Review piece.

“An effective purpose reflects the importance people attach to the project’s work and reveals its fundamental reason for being. It awakens their intrinsic motivations and gets at the deeper why of the project beyond just making money,” Nieto-Rodriguez wrote.

Break It Down With Task Management

Project managers take what might seem like an intimidating or insurmountable project and break it down into smaller tasks. This has several benefits: It can increase productivity, as team members know what to prioritize. And it can limit procrastination, since a large project seems more manageable when broken down. Plus, it may help teams collaborate more effectively.

“For instance, a team leader can assign a colleague to a specific step of a project where they may have more knowledge than another team member. This can help ensure high quality and allow each team member to employ their skills effectively,” wrote Indeed’s editorial team in its career development guide.

(Andrey/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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