As I was looking to register for classes during the summer block at school, I was excited to see that I was going to be able to take Project Management as an elective. I had often considered studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) test. However, I was nervous given the fact that the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) seemed so overwhelming. Every review read made the exam seem so daunting.
The hope was that by the end of the course I would have an understanding of the structure needed to pursue that goal. The class was fortunate enough to work with a real client over the summer block. Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is a Non-Profit that needed some assistance with reaching out and communicating with their volunteers and target audience. This afforded the amazing opportunity for me to work with a client and gain experience from a project management perspective.
What made working with O.U.R. so exciting is the fact that they were a real client. Gaining real world experience can be tough; you are not always afforded the time to do an internship, or meet with businesses to consult on operations. So this was a great opportunity to dive into assisting a real client who had an obstacle that they needed to overcome. As a team, our class was able to address those needs and come up with solutions to real problems. This adds realness to the learning process that is indescribable. The entire class was eager to be involved with this project and I was excited to be part of the team. It’s nice knowing that your research and hard work are going to have real implications in solving a problem.
The class broke into small groups and my team was charged with helping O.U.R. gain awareness on college campuses and maintains sustainability. My team had to be creative because we knew the gravity of this project. O.U.R. had a few college campuses that were aware of their mission. However, we had to create a way for O.U.R. to sustain the growth of their message.
As a team we discussed HOW we were going to address the issue of spreading the message and sustainability. The first idea was a little ambitious. It involved a lot of moving parts and of organization. After running the idea past the client, it was decided to scale back to make it easier to implement the plan. The second plan involved creating a structure to manage volunteers and overseeing clubs on college campuses.
This process outlined to me how to work with a team coming up with different ideas and how to take feedback from the client in a constructive manner. The first idea was a little impulsive and working with a real client, we needed to proceed with caution. We filled out the necessary documents and outlined responsibilities. This was instrumental in understanding the timeline, when work should be turned in and what was left to be completed.
This is a change from how I had participated in past projects. Projects I have been a part of in the past were not as thorough. Job assignments are handed out with a deadline. Each person or department would head out into the field to accomplish their individual task with no real accountability or understanding of the role they played in the project. If part of the project was behind schedule, it was not a big deal; someone else would pick up the slack.
I know that after implementing the recommendation from our group, O.U.R. will easily be able to quantify the results. They will be able to track the participation from number of campuses that have clubs and the level of engagement. They will be able to analyze the feedback so that they can reconstruct the campus clubs at different schools throughout the nation.
This project was a great introduction into how a good project manager should work with his or her team to accomplish the task at hand. Being the Project Manager means bringing everyone to the table, outlining who is responsible for what, when the project should be finished and what the end result is. The Project Manager needs to pay attention to the timeline to ensure that the project is on schedule. It is their responsibility to change job duties or find alternatives if the project is falling behind. Ultimately the buck stops with the Project Manager. They need to oversee everything from project design to quality assurance in the final stage. They are integral in every aspect of the project, evaluating and assessing along the way.
One of the reasons I went back to school was to understand how to identify client needs and learn how to devise programs to help overcome obstacles and generate success.