Legal Business

In Two Words: Project Management

Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn (the G in MGM) once responded to a suggestion: "In two words: im possible."1

I can describe project management in two words.

Too many people, including project managers, think they can describe it in one.

My two words: Project. Management.

Project management is not just about Project. It's about Management as well.

Over the past months, I've begun including more content in my public and private classes on the art of management. There are three reasons behind this slight shift (it's about ten minutes of new content in the three-and-a-half hour introductory training syllabus, for example):

  1. Looking back at bad project managers I've known and trying to isolate what made them particularly ineffective
  2. Examining a study on the major causes of avoidable write-offs
  3. Questions from clients and attendees

Bad PMs. Just about every no-one-wants-to-work-on-their-projects-twice PM I've known was truly awful at people management, possessing almost no leadership skills. They were generally competent at the minutiae of project management, ready to enter the fight with Gantt charts blazing. However, even the most brilliant work-breakdown structure cannot make up for the failure to lead the project.

Write-offs: I can't share the study, which was developed in confidence, but it did show that the major causes of avoidable write-offs2 were various management failures. Most of these issues were easily correctable with learnable skills, skills I've begun to summarize in the shorter syllabi and included in a separate module in extended Legal Project Management training.

Questions: As I've moved deeper into certain specific "how do I..." items, I've found that one common thread revolves around people management. Questions as diverse as "how do I stick to a budget" and "how do I ensure that someone completes a task as expected" include people management as part of their answer.

Project management isn't "project accounting," the proper use of tools and data, although that's an important aspect of PM. Likewise, project management isn't just "people management," though that too is critical.

Indeed, a legal project manager with no PM training but great leadership skills is likely to deliver better projects than one with scads of PM training but the kinds of people management skills I understand are featured on The Office.

The good news is that both key words - Project, Management - represent learnable skills in the world of Legal Project Management. If you're serious about LPM - efficiency, effectiveness, client value, practice profitability/budget discipline, etc. - you can strengthen these skills.

It's up to you. In two words: It's possible.

Read more at the Lexician Blog.