Most of us have been there. Deadlines are rolling by unmet; staff aren’t sure exactly what they are supposed to do or when; the budget isn’t clear (or worse, blowing out) and it’s clear a project is veering off course and, in fact, delivery might be jeopardised.
Once considered almost a technical discipline, project management has evolved enormously to a crucial way to manage innovation, product development and change in companies, governments and third-sector organisations, including non-profits and community groups.
But while the scope of project management has widened, so has the capacity for problems.
“A project can go quite well without the right skills by sheer commitment, competent people and willingness to intensively communicate over trial and error,” Monash University project management lecturer Robert Moehler says.
“But people can only really juggle between three to six projects in parallel. Beyond this, the risks of poor delivery rise significantly.”
What can go wrong?
Put simply: A lot. Loss of reputation value is the main thing people worry about, but a common underlying problem is that the project has a compromised quality of life – that is, you might have delivered it, but not the product or service really needed.
Or you have exerted too much control, limiting collaboration and shared leadership through expertise and damaging morale.
Either way, at the end there are disappointed clients, disgruntled stakeholders, a disempowered team and a project that fails to deliver in the long term.
At worst, poor project management can lead to a ‘sunk’ investment, or even a dangerous situation.
Know when to consider further study
Dr Moehler, who teaches into the cross-faculty Master of Project Management administered by Monash Business School, says “getting that promotion or new job” is just part of the reason people want to learn new skills.
“Many of our students have accidentally been promoted into a project management, team leader role, or they intend to go for promotion,” he says.
“At this point, they often realise they need a formal recognition of their experience, such as a master’s degree, to give them confidence to change careers, tackle their current role more holistically or go for a more senior role.
“Other students have been promoted into positions where their task load is no longer a handful of projects, but instead a range of programs and up to 20 or more projects. They can see their learned approaches and ways of managing projects are no longer adequate.
“They want to gain a deeper understanding of project management to help minimise stress or find more effective and efficient ways of managing projects.”
What to look for
It is important to find a course that combines a strong focus on applied learning with theoretical knowledge, coupled with practical industry-based project work, as well as embracing the complexity of applications.
Monash Business School’s interdisciplinary Master of Project Management allows you to choose electives from faculties such as business, engineering, IT, science (sustainability), MADA (design thinking) and law.
This inter-disciplinary approach provides the opportunity to study topics such as project and business finance, leadership, managerial problem-solving and decision-making, to infrastructure project and policy evaluation, negotiation strategy and skills, enterprise and IT systems.
“Students can gain game-changing insights and practise approaches in a safe learning environment, and evaluate the appropriateness with fellow practitioners, experts and academics for their future application,” Dr Moehler says.
Interested in taking your project management skills to the next level?