The Science & Art of Project Management

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Written by Jessica Herdegen
on November 28, 2012

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

— Sun Tzu, The Art of War

At the young age of 22, I studied a Project Management college course. I was taught the science around Gantt Charts, PERT charts, risk management plans, contingency plans, etc. What was lacking was the education around the art of inspiration, communication, team building, leadership and empathy. For the last 10 years, I’ve been building project plans, creating status reports, and communicating to executive leadership. But the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that both strategy (art) and tactics (science) is required from a “good project manager.”

While I was in between contracts, I had the wonderful opportunity to be surrounded by both new and tenured consultants. As we discussed how projects were structured, I kept repeating the words “a good project manager will…” That got me thinking about how projects are organized with so much science and tactics that sometimes the art and strategy gets overlooked.

I believe that a “good project manager” will preserve the art and strategy by:

  • Building relationships and collaborating across all levels of the organization
  • Motivating teams
  • Providing support and understanding for all stakeholders
  • Learning and comprehending tasks/efforts carried out by the team members
  • Learning and comprehending business/client’s needs and desires
  • Realizing when and what to communicate, and who to communicate it to
  • Helping drive solutions
  • Inspiring ideas and innovation
  • Learning from past projects

Projects are considered successful if they come in on budget, within scope, and on schedule. Furthermore, I believe projects are considered victorious if the team has tremendous synergy, the business is satisfied with the outcome, the client’s needs are met, and a solid strategy is driven forward.

This entire effort can occur when both the science and art of project management is executed by a “good project manager.”