You are about to start on your path to securing a high-demand position as a project manager. One of the greatest benefits of the project management field is that it encompasses a wide variety of positions across numerous industries. As you complete this certification, you will acquire skills that will qualify you for various job titles. Here, we will discuss some different project management job categories and some common roles within those categories. We’ll also describe the great potential for career progression in project management, from entry-level positions to senior program management roles, and the many opportunities in between!
Entry-level project management positions are a great opportunity to get your foot in the door and learn the ins and outs of how a company operates and manages projects. The lessons you learn from these experiences are extremely valuable to your growth in project management. Some entry-level project management positions include:
- Junior Project Manager: Performs all aspects of being a project manager alongside a more experienced professional.
- Project Administrator: Assists the rest of the project team with administrative tasks.
- Project/Program Assistant: Supports team members working on a project and offers administrative support. May perform research or create training documents along with other jobs as assigned by program leaders.
- Project/Program Coordinator: Participates in hands-on project work and administrative tasks. Works under a project manager to make sure projects are completed on time and within budget.
- Project Support Specialist: Works alongside a project manager and team members to oversee assigned projects. May also be responsible for training and developing employees to perform designated tasks.
Once you have gained some experience in introductory-level positions, you can explore traditional project management roles, such as:
- Project Manager: Responsible for the initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing of a project. Includes industry-specific titles like IT project manager, construction project manager, or engineering project manager, which utilize skills that are transferable among industries.
- Project Analyst: Moves a project along by sharing information, providing support through data analysis, and contributing to strategy and performance.
- Project Leader/Director: Drives core decision-making and sets the direction for the project. Usually knowledgeable about the product or deliverable.
- Project Controller: Primarily responsible for project planning. You are likely to see this job title in industries like engineering and construction.
- Technical Project Manager: Conducts project planning and management for identified goals within a company. Ensures that projects are completed to the requirements within a defined time frame and budget.
- Project Management Office (PMO) Analyst: Manages the progress of complex projects to ensure timely execution and completion.
As you have learned, project managers are responsible for the day-to-day management of projects. They shepherd projects from start to finish and serve as a guide for their team. Project managers must apply the right tools, techniques, and processes to complete the project successfully, on time, and within budget.
After you have carried out projects successfully and feel you are ready for a step up in responsibility, a program manager position may be the next step for you. While a project is one single-focused endeavor, a program is a collection of projects. Program managers are responsible for managing many projects. At Google, all project managers are called program managers because they manage multiple projects simultaneously.
Successfully implementing programs as a program manager can eventually make you a great fit for more senior positions, such as a senior program manager or a portfolio manager. A portfolio is a collection of projects and programs across an entire organization. Portfolio managers are responsible for portfolios of projects or programs for one client. Over the course of your career, you might progress from project manager to program manager to portfolio manager roles.
While project, program, and portfolio managers hold different types and levels of responsibility, they are all project managers. In Course 4 of this certificate program, you will learn more about differentiating projects, programs, and portfolios.
- Program managers: Manage a group of projects that are related or similar to one another and handle the coordination of these projects. They facilitate effective communication between individual project managers and provide support where necessary. They also help create and manage long-term goals for their organization.
- Portfolio managers: Responsible for managing a group of related programs within the same organization. They coordinate various programs in order to ensure they are on track and that the organization is meeting its strategic initiatives. Portfolio managers look at all projects and programs within the organization and prioritize work as necessary.
In operational management roles, you will get the opportunity to experience several different departments and how they interact and operate. Operational management roles allow you to work alongside peers and management from various business segments, giving you an appreciation for what each segment does on a daily basis. Key elements of project management include making sure a project is on budget and on schedule. This course, and your experience as a project manager, will give you the tools to be able to apply those skills to running a business. Some operational management positions include:
- Operations Analyst: Manages and coordinates research, investigates workflows, creates business procedures, and recommends changes to improve the project and company.
- Operations Manager: Oversees strategic decision-making and rolls out plans of action based on financial, schedule, and resource reporting.
- Chief Operating Officer: Responsible for overseeing the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of a business.
We will discuss the Agile project management approach in depth later, but here are a couple of the positions you may see that are related to that approach:
- Scrum Master: Coordinates and guides the Scrum team. Knowledgeable in Agile framework and Scrum and is able to teach others about the Scrum values and principles.
- Product Owner: Drives the direction of product development and progress.
As you search for project management roles, you may see positions with titles like “engineering project manager” or “construction project manager.” Keep in mind that the skills you learn in one industry can be applied to another industry. For example, you may have experience as a software engineer but are interested in pursuing a career in project management. You will be able to apply what you’ve learned working in a technical field, as well as with the skills you have picked up in this certification course, to a project manager position in multiple industries. Having experience working on a team to achieve a task and understanding how to execute an effort on schedule and on budget are aspects of your professional experience—combined with your project management knowledge—that make it possible for you to move between industries.
Project management is a career path with a great deal of potential!
With each step along your career path, you are building yourself up to be a significant contributor to any company. We have discussed a number of possible job titles for you to search for when you start exploring project management roles. Regardless of the industry in which you currently work, you have gained transferable skills. Transferable skills are abilities that can be used in many different jobs and career paths. Your transferable skills can likely be utilized in project management roles in many other industries.
You now know how to start searching for project management jobs! Job searching can be a time of self-reflection, growth, and excitement. Add a career path change into the mix, and it can also seem intimidating. We are about to give you some tips to help you in your job search efforts, including introducing you to some common buzzwords and skills that commonly appear in job descriptions.
In an earlier video, we mentioned buzzwords—words or phrases that are popular for a period of time or in a particular industry. In today’s job market, buzzwords like data-driven, team player, and self-starter are common. You may see terms like these show up throughout your searches.
Similarly, many job descriptions list the specific skills they require candidates to have. These skills can become some of the terms that you use in your job search. Examples of these skills include:
- Coordination, or getting people and teams to work together. You may see responsibilities in job descriptions such as “coordination of efforts to achieve project deliverable” or “coordinate internal resources to ensure successful project completion.” Being a project manager is essentially managing the coordination of resources to achieve your end goal. Coordination is one of the top skills a project manager should have, so searching for this term can lead you to appropriate positions.
- Organization, or the ability to stay focused on different tasks. You may come across phrases like “solid organizational skills, including attention to detail and multitasking skills” or something as simple as “highly organized.” Organization is key to being a great project manager. We will discuss many ways to sharpen this skill in the upcoming lessons.
- Leadership, or being able to lead a group of people. You may see phrases like “strong leadership qualities” or “ability to lead” in job descriptions. A project manager needs to display leadership in a number of ways, including effective planning, efficient task coordination, inspiring team members, and key decision-making. You are working on many of the skills needed to become a great leader in this program!
Take a look at the skills required for this position. The job description lists each of the terms that we talked about or a variation of these terms.
Excellent time management, prioritization, and organizational skills Demonstrated ability to lead others Outstanding communication skills Successful track record in coordinating the work of internal and external teams to develop new products
You may also come across positions in your search that do not include the title “Project Manager” or any of the job titles we previously discussed, but you shouldn’t rule these positions out. In many cases, the job description will include project management experience and expectations, but the position may be called something else entirely.
Look at some of the job responsibilities required for a position titled “Operations Associate.” This position is a type of project manager. You will find that most project management-related job descriptions call for the ability to plan, organize monitor, and execute tasks—all skills you will be able to do once you complete this certification.
Plan and organize team objectives and priorities Develop and execute reporting and process design Monitor daily operations and enhance processes to maximize efficiency Coordinate training plans
Including buzzwords and skills in your job search can help you find jobs that are ideal for you and your skill set. Once you have found a position you want to apply for, listing buzzwords and skills that are relevant to the position can also help recruiters and hiring managers identify you as a qualified and knowledgeable candidate.
Some common project management-related buzzwords and skills you could include on your resume are:
- Assessing outcomes
- Assessing progress
- Attention to detail
- Conflict resolution
- Executing plans
- Financial analysis
- Impact assessment
- Leadership engagement
- Managing meetings
- Managing client expectations
- Managing conflicts
- Managing relationships with stakeholders
- Managing vendors
- Meeting deadlines
- Process development
- Process improvement
- Project coordination
- Project implementation
- Project initialization
- Project planning
- Project reporting
- Quality control
- Risk assessment
- Risk management
- Solution development
- Strategic planning
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Strong verbal communication
- Strong written communication
Job searching for your first (or next) project management position can be easier if you enter the right search terms. Search for the skills you’re learning throughout this project management certificate program or skills you’ve acquired in your current or previous positions. These terms will help you determine if you have found a potential match. As you start your project management career, don’t let the requirement for project management experience stop you from applying for project management-adjacent roles. Once you have completed this certification course, you'll see how many skills you already have that can be translated and correlated to a project management role.
You can save this reading for future reference. Feel free to download a PDF version of this reading below:
You have learned that project managers can prioritize, delegate, and effectively communicate to deliver value to their projects. This reading will focus on the main ways that project managers can add value to projects and impact organizations, which include:
- Focusing on the customer
- Building a great team
- Fostering relationships and communication
- Managing the project
- Breaking down barriers
Customers are always a key element to success in any business. There is no exception to that in the field of project management. In project management, the word “customer” refers to a person or an organization that defines the requirements of the project and sets important guidelines, such as budget and deadlines. In projects, customers can be internal or external. Internal customers are stakeholders within your organization, such as management, project team members, resource managers, and other organizational departments. External customers are customers outside of your organization, such as clients, contractors, suppliers, and consumers.
To successfully deliver a project, it has to meet the customer’s standards. To meet the customer’s standards, you have to make sure you clearly understand their expectations. The customer is at the center of a successful project. Project managers can add a lot of value to the project by building relationships with customers and taking the time to make sure the customer is heard and satisfied with the result.
Let’s discuss how you can focus on the customer in a project. First, sit with the customer and ask what problem they are trying to solve. You might ask if they have a specific vision of the final outcome they would like delivered. Sometimes, customers will lean on project managers to find the solution to their problem. It’s your job to ask questions like:
- What is the problem you would like us to help solve? Example response: The customer wants help developing a new process that would allow their company to be more efficient.
- How is the problem impacting your organization? Example response: The customer states that they are losing clients because of their current inefficient processes since clients are sometimes receiving their orders late.
- What prompted you to ask for help now? Example response: The customer says that they may lose department funding if they do not improve efficiency.
- What is your hope for the outcome of this project? Example response: The customer states that their ultimate goal is to increase the speed at which they fill orders without sacrificing quality.
Taking the time to dig a little deeper into the “why” behind the project can help a project manager better support and understand the customer. The more you understand the customer’s goals, the more likely you will be able to produce what the customer is seeking.
The team is a project’s biggest asset. A successful project manager knows that and takes the time to understand each person’s motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. Project managers add value to the project by identifying the right team for the project and enabling the team to be successful and make decisions.
When you work to build a great team, you have to consider the skills needed for the project, as well as the resources available. Understanding the customer’s requirements helps shape the skills needed for your team. If you are working on a project that requires people with medical expertise and you hire people who do not have a medical background, no matter how hard that team works, they will not have the right skill set to complete the project. As project manager, you should bring on people with the right skills and ensure the team knows that each individual is valued, trusted, and appreciated. You can demonstrate how you feel about the team’s value by allowing them to have input and ask questions, and by addressing their needs as soon as possible.
Maintaining customer satisfaction and building a great team are two ways that you, as a project manager, can add value to a project. Both of these skills are built on the foundation of relationships and communication. The project managers who add the most value are the ones who take the time to build relationships, communicate, and treat others with consideration and respect.
Project managers can set the tone for a project and build relationships within their teams and with stakeholders. Taking the time to check in daily with your team, see how they’re doing, and ask if there is anything they need help with can go a long way towards making them feel valued and heard.
When you build teams, each person is generally assigned specific project tasks. Once each task is done, the person responsible for that task hands that part of the project over to the next person. Your team members don’t always see the whole picture and how they impact others in a project. A successful project manager sees the impacts of each process within the project and communicates those impacts to the team. This ensures that everyone working on the project understands their task goal as well as the big picture goal for the finished product. For example, if a graphic designer working on marketing materials for your project doesn't understand the customer’s overall goal to appeal to educators, they may not be able to fully capture the vision for the campaign. Helping this team member understand the big picture allows them to tailor their tasks to meet the needs of the project end goal.
Managing a project can be busy, but if you take the time to build relationships and maintain open lines of communication, you will increase the chances of the project’s success as well as the customer’s and your team members’ satisfaction.
Sometimes, when you ask why something is being done a certain way, the response you get is, “Because we’ve always done it this way.” A project manager adds value to a project when they break down barriers, allow their team to innovate new ways to do things, and empower them to share ideas. As a project manager, you have to model ingenuity and collaboration, and encourage your team to do the same.
How can you break down barriers on a project? You can provide support for your team as they try new approaches to find solutions, and you can advocate for additional resources for your team. If your team is having a hard time getting an answer from another organization, you can reach out to the organization yourself in order to keep the team on track and on schedule.
You have now learned some of the ways that project managers can add value to projects and impact organizations. By focusing on the customer, building a great project team, fostering relationships and communication, managing the project, and breaking down barriers, you can overcome obstacles and find solutions to succeed.
What are the core job responsibilities of project managers? Let’s recap what we learned in the previous video.
The project manager is responsible for planning, organizing, managing tasks, budgeting, controlling costs, and other factors to help keep the project within budget and on time.
What does that mean? Basically, as the project manager, you will be responsible for tracking the day-to-day details of the project, but you will also have an opportunity to step back and see the bigger picture of the overall project.
Depending on the project and organization, you may also have responsibilities that utilize your interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are the behaviors you use to interact with others, such as communication, active listening, and leadership.
Let's review these responsibilities.
Teaching and mentoring, empowering the team, communicating, controlling change and building relationships
As a project manager, you can serve as a mentor to your team. When you take the time to fully explain the expectations, you eliminate rework, confusion, and frustration. Mentoring and teaching others the lessons that you, as a project manager, have learned allows your team to make better choices and build on your experience. Mentoring also involves supporting each individual on your team in meeting expectations and helping them to exceed their own sense of personal potential.
Relationships are everything! Getting to know your team members lets them know that you care about them as people, not just as employees. Taking the time to build relationships with your customers, clients, vendors, and other stakeholders is equally important. Dedicate time to check in with people. Pay attention to the insights they offer you about their work style since their actions can inform how to most effectively interact with them. Ask about their lives beyond the project, and then follow up on those discussions later on to show your interest. When you foster these relationships, you are all more invested in the success of your project.
The American novelist Louis L’Amour wrote, “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” This applies to projects as well. Projects change as you continue to understand the expectations and the needs of your stakeholders. As a project manager, you need to remain flexible and adjust to the stakeholders’ needs. However, it is also important to protect your team from constant change and rework. A good way to do this is by documenting the initial expectations of the project and clearly identifying the changes being requested. It is also helpful to understand the budget and schedule impact of the changes and make sure that the stakeholders understand those impacts. As the project manager, you are responsible for protecting your team.
We all enjoy being heard and appreciated in our careers. Giving your team the ability to work directly with the stakeholders and their teams lets them know that you trust and believe in their skills! One of the best things about empowering your team is getting fresh ideas and passionate employees willing to help find solutions to problems. Another way you can empower your team is by delegating responsibilities to them, allowing them to make some decisions for the project, and using their input in the planning and execution of the project. Effective mentoring often leads to more empowered teams.
As a project manager, communication is everything. With effective communication, you can work together with your team to find solutions to challenges. The project manager sets the tone for the project. Maintaining an open door policy and building trust within your team and among stakeholders—all while staying positive—will help the success of the project.
You have learned that project managers may be responsible for teaching and mentoring project team members, building relationships with the team and various stakeholders, controlling change and the impact to the project, empowering team members to make decisions, and communicating status and potential concerns. These interpersonal responsibilities can be just as important to the success of your projects as your more concrete responsibilities, like scheduling and budgeting.
As you continue through this course, you will learn more about how these project manager responsibilities are embedded into the different phases of a project.
As a project manager, you will likely work with cross-functional teams. A cross-functional team includes team members who have different backgrounds, types of expertise, and job functions. Even though these team members have different skill sets, occupy different roles, and may even work in different departments, they are all working towards a common goal: the successful completion of your project.
Sometimes the members of a cross-functional team are referred to as “T-shaped professionals.” They are skilled in how to collaborate and innovate with those in different job functions and across different departments, but they also contribute their own specific areas of expertise. Each member of a cross-functional team has their own unique perspective and experience, bringing different ideas and strategies to the project.
Let’s explore each of these ideas in more detail.
When working with cross-functional teams, it is important to ensure that each member of the team understands their role, how they support each other, and the common goals of the project. It is vital to set clear goals for the team and make sure that the team understands those goals. Be direct and concise, avoiding extraneous details and explanations. When communicating task or project goals, make sure you define key items, such as budget, deadlines, quality requirements, or important resources. Ensure your team members understand task and project goals by encouraging them to ask questions and clarify information. It will be up to you to continuously check in with your team to make sure they’re all moving towards their goals, staying on track, and completing quality work. Cross-functional teams may work in different departments, be in different physical locations, and have different leadership, but all team members work together with the project manager to support the current project. Your project may be competing against other priorities, so communicating clearly and often with your team—and vice versa—helps you identify any potential issues or concerns before they arise.
Making sure you have team members with the correct skill sets for each of the project functions is critical. If you are building an airplane and you’ve got five engineers but no mechanics, you are missing a key element of your cross-functional team. As the project manager, you must help ensure that your team has the right people with the right skill sets needed for the project to succeed. Later in this program, we will discuss some tools you can use to help you identify the skill sets needed to accomplish your project tasks.
Showing your team how much they have accomplished helps keep them motivated. Take the time to measure and communicate the project’s progress across the cross-functional team. This helps everyone see the full picture and recognize their impact on the project. You can measure progress in many ways, including meeting key milestones, completing project tasks, and meeting project goals on time and within budget. Regularly communicate with your team members to check on their progress. Ask them if they anticipate being finished on time. If not, ask how you can help them succeed. Keep track of the team’s progress throughout the project by documenting when tasks and goals are completed, and let your team members know if the project is on track or not. Make sure you communicate successes, delays, or issues, to the team so they know how the project is progressing. Keeping everyone informed is essential to the project’s success.
Sometimes, when you work with cross-functional teams, there are certain skills that get recognized more than others. A mechanic could get accolades for coming up with the solution to a problem within the project, while the finance member who sourced the funding might be forgotten. As a project manager, it is your job to make sure that each member of your cross-functional team recognizes the value of their efforts each step of the way. You have learned the importance of building relationships with stakeholders, and building relationships with your cross-functional team members is just as important. Learning what makes your team members feel supported, giving and taking feedback, and being mindful of each individual's background, personal identifiers, and work style can help mediate some of the differences among team members.
Being able to communicate clearly with team members, clarify the goals of the project, get team members with the right skills, measure team progress, and recognize team members’ efforts is an important part of your role as the project manager, and is key to your project’s success.
In the previous video, we discussed the four key competencies of a project manager: enabling decision-making communicating and escalating, strong organizational skills, and flexibility. With time and practice, you will master these skills to help you become successful in a project management role. In this reading, we’ll dig deeper into why flexibility is essential for effective project management and how you can help your team deal with ambiguity.
First, let’s review the other project management competencies you’ve learned about so far.
You can help team members feel empowered from the start of your project by making the decision-making process collaborative. For example, state the goals of specific deliverables and elicit input from your team on how to achieve those goals. You may have an idea of how you would like certain tasks to be accomplished, but your team members may have more creative or efficient approaches. Empowering your team to express their opinions and make their own decisions allows you to focus on the overarching management tasks and prioritize them in order of importance. Additionally, when you allow team members to have a voice in decisions, it helps foster an environment of responsibility, accountability, and team closeness.
Project management requires clearly communicating project goals and expectations, team member roles and responsibilities, and constructive feedback. Knowing how to effectively communicate and when to escalate issues to management is key to keeping you, your team, and your organization on the path to success. When escalation is required, try to approach management with both the problem and the potential solution or suggestions. This will show that you’re taking initiative as a project manager.
If you demonstrate that it is important for you, as a leader, to stay organized through efficient tracking and communications, your team will follow suit. One way to do this is by utilizing the abundance of organizational tools available, such as:
- Planning and scheduling software (templates, workflows, calendars)
- Collaboration tools (email, collaboration software, dashboards)
- Documentation (files, plans, spreadsheets)
- Quality assurance tools (evaluations, productivity trackers, reports)
You may need to experiment with different organizational approaches to determine what works best for you and your team.
All project managers need the ability to adapt and overcome changes and challenges. Let’s further explore why flexibility is such a critical project management skill and discuss how it can help prepare your team for change, mitigate risks, and handle ambiguity.
Change is inevitable, and the more flexible you are as a project manager, the more successful you will be throughout your career. These flexible planning strategies can help you manage your project during times of unpredictability:
- Assess external constraints. When planning your project, take external events into account, such as national holidays and team member vacations and sick leave. Leaving extra time in the schedule for these inevitable events up front can help minimize the impact to your project.
- Plan for risks and challenges. If you consider the risks that may occur, you may be able to find solutions for them in advance. For example, what if someone on your team gets sick or decides to quit? Are you able to replace them within the company? If not, can you hire an independent contractor? Come up with a list of people who may be able to join your team if one of your team members becomes unavailable. You can also assess risks by looking at historical data. Review your past projects and examine the challenges you faced. Then evaluate if similar challenges could occur in this project and prepare accordingly. We will discuss risk management at length later in this program.
- Calculate “float” in your schedule. Float or slack, refers to the amount of time you can wait to begin a task before it impacts the project schedule and threatens the project outcome. Identifying float in your schedule can help with resource management, scheduling, and keeping your project on track. You will learn more about calculating float in a later course, when we discuss creating a critical path for your project tasks.
Ambiguity can be a big challenge in managing projects. Project managers often face ambiguity in goals, requirements, schedules, vision, or other areas related to the project. Your team will look to you to lead during times of ambiguity and change, and flexibility is especially important during these instances. Here are some different ways to help your team deal with ambiguity:
- Keep calm. In uncertain times, handling ambiguity with grace and poise will help inspire the members of your team to do the same.
- Express empathy. As a project manager, it is important to try to understand what your team is thinking and feeling, especially during times of ambiguity. Let your team members know that you care about the challenges they are facing and are there to support them.
- Communicate what you know clearly. Define the aspects of the project that are confirmed and will not change. This helps your team get a better sense of what to expect, regardless of any aspects of the project that are still unknown or changing.
- Make decisions and stick to them. Try not to second-guess your decisions in front of your team since this can lead to greater uncertainty. If you need to change course, clearly explain why you have chosen to do so to your team.
- Trust the expertise of your team. Increase clarity by having everyone on your team discuss what they already know or believe to be true about components of your project, such as what is involved in specific tasks or resources needed, based on their areas of expertise. Then, discuss what you still don’t know and brainstorm ways to gather more information.
As a project manager, having the flexibility and ability to handle ambiguity in a rapidly-changing business setting gives you an advantage. Mastering these competencies, along with enabling decision-making, effective communication skills, and strong organizational skills, will allow you to innovate and grow as a project manager and leader.
We have talked about the skills that project managers need to be successful in their role. Now, let’s debunk some of the common myths about what is needed to be an effective project manager.
Myth: You have to be an expert in the field and have a lot of technical knowledge about the project.
Reality: There are benefits to the project manager not having a lot of technical knowledge about a project. Rather than getting caught up in the technical details when communicating with management and stakeholders, the project manager can look at all of the different pieces that the cross-functional team is working on and assess how they each contribute to the success of the project. As a project manager, you bring on the right team members—with their differing areas of expertise—and trust them to be able to focus on the technical aspects of the project. Your job is to handle the communication, documentation, and organization necessary to get the project successfully to the finish line.
Scenario: Jamar just landed his first project management job with a construction company. He’s been tasked with managing the construction of a new elementary school in his city. He isn’t expected to know how to do all of the technical skills, like engineering, construction, plumbing, and electrical; he hires the right people for the job. He communicates the needs, timelines, and expectations of the project to his team members and stakeholders and helps break down any barriers to completing the project on time. Jamar helps the engineers and construction workers communicate with one another to ensure that they are all on the same page regarding the requirements. He makes sure that the materials are in place as needed for the plumbers and electricians.
The bottom line: Project managers hire the experts and help put all the pieces of the project together. Project managers don’t need to be experts in every field.
Reality: It is a common misconception that anyone who has significant experience and success in an organization can manage projects there. In order to successfully manage projects in any organization, you must acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, tools, and techniques and be able to apply them. You don’t necessarily need to have worked in previous roles at that organization. In taking this certification, you are learning and practicing how to be an effective project manager before taking on a position.
Scenario: Sofia is a supervisor at a large customer service call center. She has been recognized by leadership as a top performer. To reward her, management has offered her the role of project manager for the implementation of a new call center software program. It will be her job to oversee the installation, training, and implementation of the new process. Sofia tries to manage the project, but she has no idea how to create a project plan, manage the various members of her team, identify risks, or handle any of the other major project management tasks. She lets her manager know that she does not have the appropriate training to manage the project but that she would like to build those skills. Sofia’s manager enrolls her in a project management training course so that she will have the necessary skills to manage projects in the future.
The bottom line: To be a successful project manager at any organization—regardless of whether you have worked there previously—it is essential to master the skills, tools, and techniques of project management.
Reality: Details matter in project execution, but as a project manager, you must also focus on the big picture and strategy for the project. What is the end goal? Do you and your team have a clear direction? If the whole team understands their objectives and has what they need to be successful in their tasks, they can work on the individual details and provide you space to supervise the overall project goals. Open lines of communication will help ensure that your team members share any possible risks to the budget or schedule with you.
Scenario: Yui is a project manager working for a clothing company. The company is developing a new line of winter sleepwear that is set to launch in late October. Yui meets with the key stakeholders to determine their goals and timeline for the project. She recruits employees from the merchandising, exports, marketing, materials, production, and quality control departments to be a part of the project team. Yui meets with her team at the start of the project to clarify the objectives for the product line and checks in with them regularly to remove any barriers and find out where they need additional support. When a team member from the materials department informs Yui that the fabric they were planning on using for a particular style of pajamas has increased in price, Yui works with the team member to find a new supplier so that the overall project budget is not impacted.
The bottom line: Your role as a project manager is to communicate with your stakeholders, clarify objectives, and set expectations. Trust your team to handle the details of each project task and communicate with you when there’s an issue. Through your direct communication and strategic approach to problem-solving, you can provide solutions and help remove barriers for your team. This is where you add value!
We have just busted three project management myths! Recognizing these truths will help you be more confident and successful as you pursue your project manager career.
It’s Friday night when Jason, a project manager at a company that specializes in virtual reality software, receives an urgent call from his manager, Mateo. Mateo tells Jason that he needs a cost and timeline for a virtual reality training program for Flight Simulators, Inc., a company that does aircraft maintenance, by the end of the weekend.
Jason spends the weekend working through a proposal for Flight Simulators, Inc. He quickly throws together a proposal estimating that it will cost $200,000 and take six weeks to develop the course. This is the standard cost and time frame for developing training on his company’s platform. He sends the proposal over to Flight Simulators, Inc. so that he can meet their deadline.
When Jason walks into the office on Monday morning, Mateo tells him that he got reprimanded for not following the company’s process for building out a proposal and including the engineers in the process. The engineers take a look at the information presented by Flight Simulators, Inc. and realize that the company’s software won’t work with their platform. It will take six months to develop their platform to meet the needs of the organization’s software and another six months to test the software and platform integration. The cost to develop and test this software will be over a million dollars.
This project has failed before it even started. There’s no way to complete the request from Flight Simulators, Inc. without impacting the budget, quality, and timeline.
When his manager calls, Jason tells him that while he understands that Mateo wants to make the customer happy by getting them a proposal promptly, he would like to take a little more time to get the proposal right. Jason tells Mateo that he will draft up an email to Flight Simulators, Inc. and request additional time to develop an accurate and reasonable proposal. Mateo is hesitant but agrees.
On Monday morning, Jason sees that Flight Simulators, Inc. has responded to his request. They appreciate the fact that he communicated his concerns about the quick turnaround on the proposal request. They say they will give him a week to work with his team to provide an estimate for the project.
Now Jason has the time to get all of the key players involved in estimating the effort it will take to complete the project, including the cost, schedule, and resources.
Let’s apply the project life cycle to this project.
This is the phase Jason rushed through in the first scenario. Ideally, in this phase, Jason discusses project goals with Flight Simulators, Inc. to gain a clear understanding of what they are asking for. Once Jason has defined the project goals, he can gather the stakeholders and project team members to define what needs to be done to successfully create this training for Flight Simulators, Inc. Jason identifies the skill sets required, the timeline, and the cost to develop the training. He identifies and documents the value that this project creates for the company. He presents all of the information he has put together to his company’s leadership team, who approves Jason’s proposal. Jason then submits the proposal to Flight Simulators, Inc., and they accept it.
Now that Jason has the green light to work on the project, he makes a project plan to get from start to finish. Having a plan in place ensures that all team members and stakeholders are prepared to complete their tasks. Jason outlines the important deadlines and tasks for the project to be successful. He creates a schedule to account for all resources, materials, and tasks needed to complete the project.
During this project phase, Jason’s project team puts his plan in motion by executing the work. Jason monitors his team as they complete project tasks. His role as the project manager is not to complete the individual tasks but to help break down any barriers that would slow or stop the team from completing their tasks. It is also Jason’s responsibility to communicate schedule and quality expectations. Jason uses his communication skills to keep Flight Simulators, Inc. up to date on the project status and gather feedback from them. This keeps the project on schedule and within budget.
Jason’s team has successfully completed the training, and he delivers it to Flight Simulators, Inc. They are very pleased with how it turned out! Jason is now ready to close this project and move on to the next one. Before he closes this chapter, Jason and his team discuss and document the lessons learned from the project. What worked well, and what could work better next time? Jason also puts together a small lunch gathering for his team to celebrate and recognize their hard work.
It may seem like a lot of work to go through an entire project life cycle, but the long-term impact it will have on your project is huge! It is your job as the project manager to make sure that your leadership truly understands the risk of not properly preparing for a project. Making assumptions that are incorrect can put your company at risk. Instead, taking the time to carefully initiate, plan, execute, and close your project leads to project success and good working relationships with customers.
The project life cycle is the path for your project from start to finish. Each project phase builds toward the subsequent phase and helps to create a structure for the project. To recap, the main phases of the project life cycle are: initiating the project, making a plan, executing and completing tasks, and closing the project.
In this reading, we will summarize each phase of the project life cycle.
In this phase, ask questions to help set the foundation for the project, such as:
- Who are the stakeholders?
- What are the client’s or customer’s goals?
- What is the purpose and mission of the project?
- What are the measurable objectives for the team?
- What is the project trying to improve?
- When does this project need to be completed?
- What skills and resources will the project require?
- What will the project cost? What are the benefits?
In this phase, make a plan to get your project from start to finish.
- Create a detailed project plan. What are the major milestones? What tasks or deliverables make up each milestone?
- Build out the schedule so you can properly manage the resources, budget, materials, and timeline. Here, you will create an itemized budget.
In this phase, put all of your hard work from the first two phases into action.
- Monitor your project team as they complete project tasks.
- Break down any barriers that would slow or stop the team from completing tasks.
- Help keep the team aware of schedule and deliverable expectations.
- Address weaknesses in your process or examine places where your team may need additional training to meet the project’s goals.
- Adapt to changes in the project as they arise.
In this phase, close out the project.
- Identify that your team has completed all of the requested outcomes.
- Release your team so they can support other projects within the company.
- Take time with your team to celebrate your successes!
- Pass off all remaining deliverables and get stakeholder approval.
- Document the lessons you and your team learned during the project.
- Reflect on ways to improve in the future.
Each phase of the project life cycle has its own significance and reason for existing. By following the project life cycle, you’re ensuring that you are:
- Capturing the expectations of your customer
- Setting your project up for success with a plan
- Executing project tasks and addressing any issues that arise
- Closing out your project to capture any lessons learned.
As you continue through this course, we will walk through each project phase in more detail.
Now that you know more about some of the different approaches and frameworks associated with project management, let's compare specific aspects of Waterfall (also commonly called traditional) and Agile approaches.
Understanding the fundamentals of—and differences between—these common project management approaches can help you demonstrate your project management knowledge during an interview. It can also help you evaluate a project to determine the right approach when working on the job.
Waterfall and Agile are implemented in many different ways on many different projects, and some projects may use aspects of each. The chart below briefly describes and compares Waterfall and Agile approaches. You can use it as a quick reference tool, but be aware that in practice, the differences between these two approaches may not always be clearly defined. Waterfall and Agile Comparison
Project manager's role
Project manager serves as an active leader by prioritizing and assigning tasks to team members.
Agile project manager (or Scrum Master) acts primarily as a facilitator, removing any barriers the team faces. Team shares more responsibility in managing their own work.
Project deliverables and plans are well-established and documented in the early stages of initiating and planning. Changes go through a formal change request process.
Planning happens in shorter iterations and focuses on delivering value quickly. Subsequent iterations are adjusted in response to feedback or unforeseen issues.
Follows a mostly linear path through the initiating, planning, executing, and closing phases of the project.
Time is organized into phases called Sprints. Each Sprint has a defined duration, with a set list of deliverables planned at the start of the Sprint.
Costs are kept under control by careful estimation up front and close monitoring throughout the life cycle of the project.
Costs and schedule could change with each iteration.
Project manager makes plans and clearly defines criteria to measure quality at the beginning of the project.
Team solicits ongoing stakeholder input and user feedback by testing products in the field and regularly implementing improvements.
Project manager continually communicates progress toward milestones and other key indicators to stakeholders, ensuring that the project is on track to meet the customer’s expectations.
Team is customer-focused, with consistent communication between users and the project team.
Project manager continually manages and monitors stakeholder engagement to ensure the project is on track.
Team frequently provides deliverables to stakeholders throughout the project. Progress toward milestones is dependent upon stakeholder feedback.
Now that you better understand the differences between Waterfall and Agile project management approaches, you can use this understanding to determine which is most effective for your projects.
Previously you learned about Agile and Waterfall project management approaches. Now, we will define some key concepts from Lean and Six Sigma methodologies. We will learn how these methodologies can be used to organize and manage your projects, and we will discuss which is the most effective for different kinds of projects.
Lean methodology is often referred to as Lean Manufacturing because it originated in the manufacturing world. The main principle in Lean methodology is the removal of waste within an operation. By optimizing process steps and eliminating waste, only value is added at each phase of production.
Today, the Lean Manufacturing methodology recognizes eight types of waste within an operation: defects, excess processing, overproduction, waiting, inventory, transportation, motion, and non-utilized talent. In the manufacturing industry, these types of waste are often attributed to issues such as:
- Lack of proper documentation
- Lack of process standards
- Not understanding the customers’ needs
- Lack of effective communication
- Lack of process control
- Inefficient process design
- Failures of management
These same issues create waste in project management.
Implement Lean project management when you want to use limited resources, reduce waste, and streamline processes to gain maximum benefits.
You can achieve this by using the pillars of the Lean 5S quality tool. The term 5S refers to the five pillars that are required for good housekeeping: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. Implementing the 5S method means cleaning up and organizing the workplace to achieve the smallest amount of wasted time and material. The 5S method includes these five steps:
- Sort: Remove all items not needed for current production operations and leave only the bare essentials.
- Set in order: Arrange needed items so that they are easy to use. Label items so that anyone can find them or put them away.
- Shine: Keep everything in the correct place. Clean your workspace every day.
- Standardize: Perform the process in the same way every time.
- Sustain: Make a habit of maintaining correct procedures and instill this discipline in your team.
Within the Lean methodology, 5S helps you boost performance.
The final concept of Lean uses a Kanban scheduling system to manage production. The Kanban scheduling system, or Kanban board, is a visualization tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your team’s work. It gives the team a visual display to identify what needs to be done and when. The Kanban board uses cards that are moved from left to right to show progress and help your team coordinate the work.
Kanban boards and 5S are core principles of the Lean methodology. They can help you successfully manage your project. Now let’s analyze the Six Sigma method and learn when is the best time to use it.
Six Sigma is a methodology used to reduce variations by ensuring that quality processes are followed every time. The term “Six Sigma” originates from statistics and generally means that items or processes should have 99.9996% quality.
The seven key principles of Six Sigma are:
- Always focus on the customer.
- Identify and understand how the work gets done. Understand how work really happens.
- Make your processes flow smoothly.
- Reduce waste and concentrate on value.
- Stop defects by removing variation.
- Involve and collaborate with your team.
- Approach improvement activity in a systematic way.
Use this methodology to find aspects of the product or process that are measurable like time, cost, or quantity. Then inspect that measurable item and reject any products that do not meet the Six Sigma standard. Any process that created unacceptable products has to be improved upon.
Now that you understand both Lean and Six Sigma, let's see how they come together to improve the performance of your project!
After both Lean and Six Sigma were put into practice, it was discovered that the two methodologies could be combined to increase benefits. The tools used in Lean, such as Kanban boards and 5S, build quality in processes from the beginning. Products developed using Lean methods are then inspected or tested using Six Sigma standards. The products that do not meet these standards are rejected.
The largest difference between these methodologies is that Lean streamlines processes while Six Sigma reduces variation in products by building in quality from the beginning and inspecting products to ensure quality standards are met. You may find that one of these two methods—or using them both together—can improve the efficiency of your projects.
You have been learning a lot about different project management approaches and when to use them. In this reading, we will briefly recap some of the most common ones and recommend a couple of articles with supporting information. You’ll continue to learn more about these approaches throughout this certificate program.
Below is a brief recap of some of the project management approaches you’ve been introduced to so far:
Waterfall is a traditional methodology in which tasks and phases are completed in a linear, sequential manner, and each stage of the project must be completed before the next begins. The project manager is responsible for prioritizing and assigning tasks to team members. In Waterfall, the criteria used to measure quality is clearly defined at the beginning of the project.
Agile involves short phases of collaborative, iterative work with frequent testing and regularly-implemented improvements. Some phases and tasks happen at the same time as others. In Agile projects, teams share responsibility for managing their own work. Scrum and Kanban are examples of Agile frameworks, which are specific development approaches based on the Agile philosophy.
Scrum is an Agile framework that focuses on developing, delivering, and sustaining complex projects and products through collaboration, accountability, and an iterative process. Work is completed by small, cross-functional teams led by a Scrum Master and is divided into short Sprints with a set list of deliverables.
Kanban is both an Agile approach and a tool that provides visual feedback about the status of the work in progress through the use of Kanban boards or charts. With Kanban, project managers use sticky notes or note cards on a physical or digital Kanban board to represent the team’s tasks with categories like “To do,” “In progress,” and “Done.”
Lean uses the 5S quality tool to eliminate eight areas of waste, save money, improve quality, and streamline processes. Lean’s principles state that you can do more with less by addressing dysfunctions that create waste. Lean implements a Kanban scheduling system to manage production.
Six Sigma involves reducing variations by ensuring that quality processes are followed every time. The Six Sigma method follows a process-improvement approach called DMAIC, which stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control.
Lean Six Sigma is a combination of Lean and Six Sigma approaches. It is often used in projects that aim to save money, improve quality, and move through processes quickly. Lean Six Sigma is also ideal for solving complex or high-risk problems. The 5S quality tool, the DMAIC process, and the use of Kanban boards are all components of this approach.
Despite their differences, all of these project management methodologies require communication and collaboration among various teams and aim to deliver projects on time and within budget.
With so many methodologies available, there are many options that would work well for your project. Since projects and the organizations in which you will execute them vary greatly, the approach you choose to implement for each project will vary. At Google, we often use a hybrid of approaches and frameworks to efficiently meet the project goal! All approaches can be combined with others, depending on the needs of your project.
Choosing an approach that works best for the project, the organization, and the team takes time and practice. You’ll learn more about how to choose a project management approach throughout this certificate program. In the meantime, take a look at how this article breaks down common methodologies and when (or when not) to use them: Which project management methodologies should you use?
In the last video, you learned about the way a company is arranged, which is called organizational structure. You also learned that two of the most common organizational structures are Classic and Matrix.
Understanding the differences in Classic and Matrix organizational structures can help you ask questions during a job interview to fully understand the role and responsibilities you are considering. This will also help you understand which skills will be most important for you to have if you get the position.
Once you are hired into a role, knowing a company’s organizational structure can help you identify key points of communication and key stakeholders. It can also help you navigate within the organization when you need support or need to determine who has authority in a certain situation. Let’s examine the characteristics of each of these organizational structures in greater depth so you can identify the type of structure an organization has and how to navigate it as a project manager.
The Classic organizational structure is a top-down hierarchy system, where a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has direct authority over several department managers. The department manager has direct authority over several other sections of employees. This system requires communication both up and down the ladder. In a Classic structure, authority comes from the top and filters to the bottom. Frequent reporting of project status updates may be required to pass up through management levels to keep higher leaders informed.
Classic organizations are also referred to as functional organizations because the organization is divided into departments based on function. Each department is led by a functional manager, and employees are grouped according to the functions of their role. For example, the main function of Friendly Skies Airlines, an airline company, is to fly airplanes. There are typically departments logically arranged to fulfill other important company functions, such as Marketing, Human Resources, and Strategy. Employees usually have a specialty within the organization and may not work within other areas during normal everyday operations.
Friendly Skies Airlines has a Classic organizational structure, as indicated by its reporting or “org” chart.
Imagine that the Friendly Skies Airlines Board of Directors approves an initiative to retrofit existing airplanes to carry more passengers. The CEO sponsors a project team to redesign the airplanes. The project will be led by a project manager from the Engineering and Innovation department and will require representatives from Finance, Marketing, Strategy, and Operations, along with several other team members from the Design department, to successfully complete the project.
The project team will typically remain in their reporting lines but act as their own assembled team. They do not fall under any of the existing functional departments. In the Classic organizational structure, the project builds from already existing departments to form teams.
If you are a project manager in this type of structure, you may need to consult with functional managers to understand your resources and the capacity of each teammate, as well as to familiarize yourself with each function’s internal processes and approval structure. Your authority may be slightly limited due to competing priorities, approval chains, and other complexities, but setting expectations up front will enable you to navigate the organization and execute your project successfully.
The Matrix structure differs from the Classic structure in that the employees have two or more managers. In Matrix structures, you still have people above you, but you also have people in adjacent departments with whom you will need to communicate on your work progress. Functional areas tend to cross paths more frequently, and depending on the nature of the work, the responsible manager for each area has the most authority.
As a project manager in a Matrix organization, your team will essentially have at least two chains of command, or managers. You can think of the project manager as being a temporary manager while the employee is assigned to the team, whereas the functional manager is consistent regardless of which project the employee is supporting. The visual below illustrates what the Friendly Skies Airlines would look like if it had a Matrix organizational structure.
Imagine that Friendly Skies Airlines is organized in a Matrix structure. Their Product Excellence team develops a new amenity kit for long-haul flights. They ask the Project Manager to help gather marketing materials that present research data about how this product fulfills passenger desires. The Project Manager is working on behalf of the Product Excellence team, but they are able to work in partnership with the Marketing team to create these materials.
You can read more about an overview of Matrix organizations in this PMI article.
In both Classic and Matrix organizations, project managers must clearly define roles and responsibilities in order to work effectively. However, within most Matrix organizations, some project managers or department leads may have the same level of authority as the functional managers and operate more directly.
Now you know how to identify Classic and Matrix organizational structures, how project managers fit into them, and how an organization’s structure may affect projects. You are well on your way to becoming a great project manager in any organizational structure!
In this lesson, you are learning about different types of organizational structures. Project managers serve key functions in both Classic and Matrix organizations. Within both of these types of structures, there is sometimes a group devoted specifically to program management with the organization: the Project Management Office. In this reading, we will discuss the purpose and functions of a Project Management Office.
A Project Management Office, or PMO, is a group within an organization that defines, sets, and helps maintain project management standards and processes throughout that organization. It often acts as a coordinated center for all of the organization’s projects, helping them run more smoothly and efficiently.
An organization’s project managers may operate within the PMO itself or within other departments. At Google, for example, there are project managers who work in a PMO focused on operational excellence, but there are numerous project and program managers in other departments throughout the organization, as well.
PMOs offer guidance and support to their organization’s project managers. They share best practices, project statuses, and direction for all of the organization’s projects while often taking on strategic projects themselves. The main functions of a PMO include:
This is the most important function of a PMO. This involves defining project criteria, selecting projects according to the organization’s business goals, and then providing a business case for those projects to management.
PMOs help implement best practices and processes within their organization. They also share lessons learned from previous successful projects. They help ensure consistency among their organization’s projects by providing guidance about processes, tools, and metrics.
PMOs help set common project culture practices by training employees about optimal approaches and best practices. This helps keep project management practices consistent and efficient across the entire organization.
PMOs are often responsible for managing and allocating resources—such as people and equipment—across projects throughout the organization based on budget, priorities, schedules, and more. They also help define the roles and responsibilities needed on any given project. PMOs provide training, mentoring, and coaching to all employees, but project managers in particular.
PMOs invest in and provide templates, tools, and software to help manage projects. They also play an important role in maintaining their organization’s project history. Once a project closes, they archive all of the documents created during the project for future reference and to capture lessons learned.
To recap, the key purposes of a PMO include: strategic planning and governance, implementing project management best practices, establishing common project culture, resource management, and creating project documentation, archives, and tools. PMOs support their organizations in managing large numbers of projects and help keep all employees working in the same direction towards the organization’s goals.
It is important to learn about the culture of the organization where you work or want to work. Understanding the company’s culture can help you navigate your team through a project. Consider this quote from Peter Drucker, an expert on management: ”Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Drucker is implying that the culture of a company always influences its success, regardless of how effective the company’s business model may be. Organizational culture is critical to the health of a company, the people who work there, and the customers it serves.
- Identity: An organization’s culture defines its identity. Its identity essentially describes the way the company conducts business, both internally and externally. A company’s values and organizational culture go hand-in-hand; its values are part of its identity. You can almost think of an organization’s culture as its personality. That is why it is important to learn your company’s (or target company’s) mission and value statements. The mission and value statements will help you understand why the company exists and will give you insight into what the company believes in and how it will behave.
- People: Strong, positive organizational culture helps retain a company’s best employees. People who feel valued, engaged, and challenged are more likely to give their best and want to drive for success. An organization’s culture can help keep talented employees at a company, and it can attract great people too! On the other hand, a toxic culture can have the opposite effect. It is important to find an organization with a culture that fits your personality. One way to find out more about an organization's culture is to talk to the people who work there. You can also take note of the current employees’ attire, expressions, and overall behavior.
- Processes: Organizational culture can have direct impacts on a company's processes, and ultimately, its productivity. The organization’s culture is instilled throughout the company—from its employees to how its employees do their job. For example, a company that values feedback and employee involvement might have that reflected in their processes by including many opportunities for employees to comment. By allowing employees to feel their voices are heard, this company is adhering to its culture.
As a project manager, it is important to understand your company’s culture, especially because it could affect the projects you work on. Some aspects of an organization’s culture that are directly related to how you will manage projects are communication, decision-making, rituals, previous management styles, and values. To learn more about a company’s culture and how it applies to you as a project manager, you can:
You can learn about an organization's culture by asking questions of management and peers. It can be helpful to ask these questions in the interview phase to better understand the company’s culture before accepting a position. You might want to ask questions about:
- What is the company’s dress code?
- How do people typically share credit at this company?
- Is risk-taking encouraged, and what happens when people fail?
- How do managers support and motivate their team?
- How do people in this role interact with customers and users?
- When and how do team members give feedback to one another?
- What are some workplace traditions?
- What are some of the ways the company celebrates success?
- What are the policies around sick days and vacation?
- Does the company allow for employee flexibility (e.g., working from home, flexible working hours)?
- What policies are in place that support employees sharing their identity in the workplace?
- What is the company’s onboarding process?
- How do employees measure the impact of their work?
- What are the company’s mission and value statements?
- How might the person in this role contribute to the organization’s mission?
- How does the organization support professional development and career growth?
Listening to what current employees have to say and how they portray the company will give you great insight.
- What were employees' experiences with similar projects in the past?
- What can they tell you about key stakeholders and customers?
Rituals can be powerful drivers of culture. They engage people and help instill a sense of shared purpose and experience.
- How are birthdays and holidays celebrated?
- Do employees generally eat lunch at the same time and in the same place?
- Watch employee interactions: Observing how employees interact can help you tailor your interaction style to the company norm.
- Are employee interactions more formal or informal in nature?
- Are ideas solicited from employees in different roles?
As a project manager, you become a change agent. Remember: a change agent is a person from inside an organization who helps the organization transform by focusing on improving organizational effectiveness and development. When you begin a new role, sit down with management to better understand what is expected of you and how you can make the most of the opportunity.
Interpersonal communication skills are a major part of project management. How a company communicates is directly tied to its organizational culture. You will most likely have interactions with various departments and management levels while executing projects. To communicate effectively, you will need to understand how to navigate the different channels in your company. Ask questions about communication practices when you start a new role such as: Is it customary to sign emails from the team rather than from you individually? Should presentations include team members or be solely presented by the project manager? This can help you make sure you are adhering to expectations.
Approaching projects differently from how similar projects were managed in the past may be met with some resistance. Although some projects may call for you to break the status quo, when you show an appreciation of your organization’s culture, you may help your team members accept any improvements you are implementing.
Organizational culture is important because it has a direct impact on you as a project manager, and learning how to navigate organizational culture gives you a great advantage when you are executing projects. Being able to navigate departmental interactions, communicate effectively, and plan your project in line with the organization’s culture will help set you up for success in your project management career path.
As you’ve learned, organizational culture refers to the values employees share and an organization’s values, mission, history, and more. In other words, organizational culture can be thought of as a company's personality. A company’s organizational culture can help drive its internal and external success. When a company’s culture is aligned with its corporate strategy and goals, the level at which it can perform is impressive. When researching a company for a possible new job, understanding the company’s culture can help you decide if it is a good fit for you and your priorities. Also, understanding a company's culture as a project manager can help you make informed choices about when you want your actions and decisions to fit within the culture or when you might choose to intentionally push back against the culture to effect change or create improvements. Let’s explore an example of a positive organizational culture and how a project manager fits into that culture.
The Family Java coffeehouse has over 2,000 stores worldwide. The Family Java’s culture is closely linked to their strategy and capabilities—this is what they feel sets them apart from other coffee shops. The company has invested in a relationship-driven, employees-first approach. Their culture establishes that the employees are what makes the company unique. This helps foster a warm, comfortable, and calm environment for both employees and customers alike. Because The Family Java’s organizational culture has cultivated employees who genuinely care about the company and their jobs, those employees create the same environment for their customers to enjoy.
The Family Java’s mission and values speak to this approach directly:
- To provide a welcoming environment where our employees become our family and our guests become our friends
- To create a place where everyone is welcome
- To always give our best and hold ourselves accountable for the results
- To treat others with respect and kindness
The Family Java has worked hard to be able to create the structure to put their mission and values into practice daily. They practice these values, all while achieving new levels in sales and growth. For example, The Family Java believes in expressing their employees-first value by spending more on employee healthcare than on coffee beans! Each employee is crucial to the success of the company and their ability to fulfill their mission and adhere to their values. In turn, the company makes their employees feel valued by offering substantial training, education scholarships, assistance with daycare, and growth within the company.
The Family Java is able to capitalize on the critical link between culture and strategic goals to achieve optimal performance. When evaluating their organizational culture, the company focuses on their positive attributes and adapts to what works and has proven to be beneficial. By taking the time to perfect what the company does well, The Family Java has created a culture that drives out negativity, empowers employees to be their best selves, and aligns with their strategic goals.
Avi was excited to begin his role as a project manager at The Family Java. He had asked questions about the organization’s culture during his job interview and was told about the company’s people-first approach. Avi’s previous company prioritized profitability over teamwork and mentorship. While his previous company was very successful, it was difficult for Avi to engage meaningfully in his work because the culture was so focused on financial results rather than on their employees’ job satisfaction. Avi felt like The Family Java’s approach better aligned with his own values.
Avi’s manager at The Family Java said that his role would involve a substantial emphasis on team building and keeping morale high. When he began, Avi asked his manager to clarify the time investment expected by the company in order to accomplish team- and morale-building goals. He also asked for suggestions and guidance based on what had been done at the company in the past. If Avi had made incorrect assumptions about the company’s culture and tried to manage projects with his previous company’s culture in mind, he might have emphasized speed over collaboration and communication. Avi now knew that he would need to carefully balance expectations related to The Family Java’s culture with the project workload in order to meet project timelines and achieve the desired outcome.
Before beginning his first project, Avi planned a team lunch to get to know everyone at The Family Java. Then, he scheduled one-on-one meetings with each of his team members to learn more about their working style and professional goals. He also asked how he could help support and remove any barriers for them. One of Avi’s team members, Miguel, said that he needed to start his workday early because he picked his children up from school at 3:00. After hearing this, Avi avoided scheduling team meetings in the late afternoon. Another team member, Elisa, told Avi that she preferred face-to-face or phone conversations to email since she felt like she communicated better verbally. When Avi needed to discuss something with Elisa, he made sure that he talked with her in person as much as possible. Avi continued to check in with all of his team members regularly as the project progressed. He also scheduled weekly “Coffee Chats” with his team, since he had learned that this was company tradition. Avi’s efforts to align his project management style to The Family Java’s organizational culture were noticed by executives and stakeholders, and he was given a lot of support in getting the resources he needed.
The culture of each organization you encounter will be different and can change over time. Like Avi, it is worth your time as a project manager to learn about your company's culture because it directly relates to your projects’ success.
In this lesson, you’re learning about how to support the change management process for your project. To review, change management is the process of delivering your completed project and getting other people in the organization to adopt it. In this reading, we will discuss strategies for approaching change management as a project manager.
Your project’s success depends on the adoption and acceptance of your project—whether that entails the launch of a new external tool or a process that will change operations at a production facility. In both cases, the greatest impact of the change will be on the people who use and interact with the product or process that is changing.
For example, if your website’s user interface changes, the major impact of that change affects the user. The user must learn how the website has been reorganized and adapt to the new way to navigate it. If part of the website’s interface update includes a new brand logo, the major impact of that change impacts your organization’s employees. They must be made aware of the new logo and measures must be taken to ensure that all company communications include the new logo, not the old one.
You can help ensure your project’s success by embracing changes as they come and by convincing the wider audience, whether that is the end user or members of the organization, to embrace changes, too. When you implement a careful approach to change management, you can address issues that might occur in the later stages of your project.
Change management is a major undertaking and a project in and of itself. When it comes to change management, you may not always be responsible for leading and planning the entire end-to-end process. There will be times when your manager, a team member, or another senior leader might be responsible for taking on that transition and successfully implementing the changes. However, just because you're not the one directly leading the change, there are still ways in which you can support and participate in the successful adoption of your project.
As a project manager, you can think of change management as necessary for the successful outcome of your project. Both change management and project management aim to increase the likelihood of project success. They also incorporate tools and processes to accomplish that goal. The most effective way to achieve a project goal is to integrate project management and change management, and it is your responsibility as a project manager to do so.
When you are thinking about change management as it relates to your project, begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- How will the organization react to change?
- Which influencers can affect change?
- What are the best means of communication?
- What change management practices will lead to the successful implementation of my project?
The answers to these questions will help you prepare for a variety of possible scenarios and allow you to craft solutions to effectively support the adoption of your project.
Let’s look at some best practices for approaching change management on your projects:
Be proactive. Proactive and inclusive change management planning can help keep any potentially impacted stakeholders aware of the upcoming changes.
- Incorporate change management into your project management steps. For example, you can schedule time during team meetings or create a feedback document to ensure that your team members know there is a place to voice their suggestions and concerns.
- You can also plan steps towards the end of your project to introduce the deliverable to stakeholders in the form of demonstrations, question and answer forums, or marketing videos. You can factor all of these decisions into your plan so that any potential changes are less likely to impact your timeline. If these steps have not been built into your plan, you can escalate and stress the importance of a change management plan to your stakeholders.
Communicate about upcoming changes. Communication should occur regularly among impacted stakeholders, the change management team, and the project team. Check in and communicate throughout the project about how the changes will provide a better experience for end users of the project deliverables. In this way, you support the process by providing everyone with the information they need to feel prepared to adjust to changes once the project is ready to launch.
Follow a consistent process. Following a clear change management process helps maintain consistency each time there is a change. The change management process should be established and documented early on in your project to guide how the project will handle change. Your organization may also have an overarching change management plan that can be adopted for your project. This may include when the promotion of the change should happen, when training should occur, when the launch or release will occur, and corresponding steps for each phase of the process.
Practice empathy. Changes are inevitable, but we are often resistant to them. By being empathetic to the challenges and anxiety change can bring, you can support the process in subtle ways.
Use tools. Incorporating tools to assist in the adoption of a change can be very helpful. Here are a few examples you can use on your next project:
- Feedback mechanisms, such as surveys, can capture input from stakeholders.
- Flowcharts can visualize the project's development process.
- Culture mapping can illustrate the company's culture and how the company's values, norms, and employees behavior may be affected by the change.
As the project manager, you are responsible for successfully delivering projects. As you hone the skill set you acquire throughout this program, you will find that change management is essential to your projects’ success.
For more on how to participate in the change management process, check out the following resources:
Governance in business is the management framework within which decisions are made and accountability and responsibility are determined. In simple terms, governance is understanding who is in charge. In this reading, we will discuss corporate governance and project governance. It is important to learn how corporate and project governance are related since you may have to speak about governance in an interview. Additionally, you will need to understand how your project relates to the governance structure of the organization.
Each organization is governed by its own set of standards and practices that direct and control its actions. Those standards and practices are called corporate governance, and they will influence your projects. Corporate governance is the framework by which an organization achieves its goals and objectives. Corporate governance is also a way to balance the requirements of the various corporate entities, such as stakeholders, management, and customers. Corporate governance affects every part of an organization, including action plans, internal and external controls, and performance measurements.
Governance and change management go hand-in-hand. Think back to the previous videos on change management. To successfully implement change management, it is essential that you understand the structure and culture of the organization. Effective governance in change management provides clearly defined roles and responsibilities during change. This enables the people within the organization to have a precise understanding of who makes decisions and of the relationship between those managing and participating in the change management process.
Another example of governance within an organization is the creation and use of steering committees. Steering committees decide on the priorities of an organization and manage the general course of its operations. The steering committee essentially acts as an advisory board or council to help the project manager and the company make and approve strategic decisions that affect both the company and the project.
As a project manager, you will be responsible for project governance. Project governance is the framework for how project decisions are made. Project governance helps keep projects running smoothly, on time, and within budget. Project governance involves all the key elements that make a project successful. It tells you what activities an organization does and who is responsible for those activities. Project governance covers policies, regulations, functions, processes, procedures, and responsibilities.
Project governance needs to be tailored to your organization's specific needs. These needs will influence how you implement and monitor the governance framework on your project. Project governance concerns those areas of corporate governance that are specifically related to project activities. Effective project governance ensures that an organization’s projects are aligned to the organization’s larger objectives, are delivered efficiently, and are sustainable. This includes:
- Considering the long- and short-term interests of your organization
- Making thoughtful decisions about which projects to take on and avoiding projects if you do not have sufficient resources
- Providing timely, relevant, and reliable information to the board of directors and other major stakeholders
- Eliciting the input and buy-in of senior managers since they are the decision-makers
- During the initiation phase, prioritizing clear, reachable, and sustainable goals in order to reduce confusion and conflict
- During the planning phase, assigning ownership and accountability to an experienced team to deliver, monitor, and control the process
- During the execution phase, learning from mistakes and adapting to new or improved knowledge
Corporate governance can involve clearing many hurdles before making decisions. These decisions can influence not only a single project, but the entire corporation.
At the same time, corporate governance can help support project governance, as it provides oversight on compliance and mitigating risk and offers guidance and direction for project managers. Good corporate governance can also help project managers secure resources, get issues addressed, avoid delays in decision-making, get buy-in from stakeholders, and achieve visibility for projects on the executive level.
You should think about an organization’s culture and structure when you are interviewing for a new role and as you begin a new role or project. You should consider an organization’s governance processes and practices in the same way. This will help you understand how decisions are made, who is responsible for what, and what are the potential issues and areas of concern.
Starting a new career means not only developing a new skill set but also learning how to relate your previous experience and skills to the new role you’re pursuing. If you’re ready to start your journey on a new career path, this reading will help you position yourself for success in your job search. You’ll learn how to understand what your potential employer is looking for and how to connect your background to their needs. The strategies outlined below are designed to help you become a strong job candidate, even if you don’t have directly relevant experience.
The first step is to fully understand the role you’re targeting.
One of the primary challenges for anyone looking to launch a new career is how to stand out against candidates who already have experience in the field. Overcoming this challenge begins with developing a comprehensive understanding of the role you’re targeting. You'll need to understand the role in the context of any company you’re applying to, and more broadly as well. Having a holistic understanding of what it takes to succeed in your target role will help you determine your suitability for the role, and identify any steps you can take to improve your chances of getting hired.
To understand everything from minimum must-have requirements to skills that might help you stand out from the crowd, you can begin by researching and analyzing job descriptions across different organizations.
Below you’ll find our recommended strategy for how to approach this process effectively.
The first part of the process is to gather information from multiple job listings:
- Pull up ten job descriptions for your target role. To do this, you can use job boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. Make sure the roles you select come from different companies, share similar titles, and are roles you would actually apply for. In each job description, you should be able to identify a section listing requirements for the role.
- Combine all the job requirements. To do this, create a new Google document and copy over all the required responsibilities from all ten job descriptions.
- Order requirements based on appearance frequency. Certain requirements will likely appear in multiple descriptions. The more commonly they appear, the more likely it is that they’re essential for the role. Put the most frequently appearing requirements at the top of your list. For example, a requirement that appears in all ten descriptions would go at the very top.
After completing these steps, you should have a clearer picture of which requirements are most common and important for the role. You may also have questions:
- Why do requirements differ across job descriptions? One of the most common reasons for this has to do with overly general job titles, or job titles that don’t necessarily communicate the specific scope of a given role at a particular company. For example, a program manager at one company might be focused on customer management, while at another company, the emphasis might be on project management. A Data Analyst might primarily use SQL at one company and Python at another. Because of these differences, it’s important to look beyond job titles. This is why we recommend the process outlined above—to help ensure you’re targeting the exact roles that are right for you—and that you understand the requirements for those exact roles.
- Why are some requirements higher on my list than I thought they would be, while others I expected to see barely show up at all? If you’re surprised by your results, you may need to spend more time learning what the role really entails, as you may have some preconceptions about the role that require adjusting. You might also need to do additional research to ensure you’re targeting the right roles in your job search.
- How do I know if I’m really right for my target role? It’s perfectly normal to experience self-doubt at this stage of the process. Remember, this is a new career for you. You’re not expected to know everything about the role, and it’s likely that your existing skills and experience won’t line up perfectly. The more you learn about the role, the better you’ll understand what’s required for success, and the more you’ll know about how to prepare yourself for that success.
For this next step, you can temporarily set aside the master list of role requirements you previously created. The focus here will be on your existing professional qualifications, and any other skills or experience you possess that might be relevant to your target role and of value to a potential employer.
To begin, assemble a comprehensive list of the following:
- Technical (hard) skills. These are skills relating to a specific task or situation such as programming, technical writing, project management, and more.
- Non-technical (interpersonal) skills. These are the skills that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals. They include skills like communication, leadership, team management, and more.
- Personal qualities. These are positive attributes and personality traits such as being honest, having a good sense of humor, and being dependable. You can also include your professional interests on this list.
- Education. This includes any post-secondary education, certifications, or independent classes completed online or offline.
Tip: You do not need to limit your professional inventory to skills and qualities developed through professional experience. Consider any volunteer, extracurricular, or personal experiences that might help a hiring manager understand your capabilities.
Once you’ve created your inventory of skills and experience, you’re ready to line these up against your requirements list.
The concluding step in this process is to match your profile to the job requirements. The goal here is to make it easy for any hiring manager to see why you’re a great fit for their role. You’ll accomplish this by learning what to emphasize and focus on in your search, on your resume, and during interviews.
To begin, go through your professional inventory of skills and experience, highlighting each item in green, orange, or red, depending on its relevance to your target role. Relevance is determined by whether a given skill appears on your role requirements list, how high it appears on your list, and how directly it aligns with your list.
For example, let’s say you’re interested in a program manager role. If you’re skilled at using project management software, and project management software skills are high on your job requirements list, then highlight that item in green. If you have some experience with tools that do not consistently show up on job descriptions but could still be relevant, highlight these skills in orange.
- Green should be used for skills that are directly relevant to your target role. You should look for roles that emphasize these skills. You should also highlight these skills on your resume, and be prepared to discuss them in an interview.
- Orange should be used to identify those skills and experiences that are relevant for the role but not necessarily in a direct way. These are generally your transferable skills—skills that you bring with you from past experiences that can help you succeed in your new role. Plan to have to explain these to recruiters and hiring managers, as their relevance may not be immediately evident.
- Red should be used for items that are not relevant for your job search. De-prioritize these skills, and steer clear of highlighting them on your resume and focusing on them during interviews.
Of these three categories, the orange items are where you’ll need to focus extra attention. When it comes to transferable skills, you have to do the convincing, as you can’t count on a recruiter or hiring manager making the connection. For example, no job description for a project manager role calls for waitstaff experience. However, that project manager job description will likely mention excellent communication skills—which you would have developed during your hospitality career. When applying for the project manager role, make sure your resume specifically mentions excellent communication in addition to listing “waiter” or “waitress” as your previous occupation. Once you’ve categorized your skills and experience based on how well they align with the requirements for your target role, you’re ready to move your job search forward.
We’ve covered a lot of terms—some of which you may have already known, and some of which are new. To make it easy to remember what a word means, we created this glossary of terms and definitions.
Link to glossary: Course 1 Glossary