Project Management

Formal vs. Informal Project Management: Does It Matter?

To a layman coming off the street, it might blow the person’s mind to find out that “project management” is a formal discipline. After all, The Celebrity Apprentice makes it look like any washed up simpleton can lead a project. In a post for the Association for Project Management, Paul Naybour examines where the differences occur between formal project management and just winging it.

Preplanning Matters

Let’s address the obvious. In a project that presents real complexity, trying to tackle it without any predefined processes is going to be incredibly difficult. Even a person who generally has excellent organization skills is going to run into problems, because keeping details organized is only one part of managing a project. Another big part is having contingencies in place for when things go wrong or priorities change. Without formal processes in place, a project manager will have to troubleshoot each issue individually, and it will likely be a mess.

Clarifying rules and responsibilities, establishing a risk plan, and defining project scope are all processes that mitigate changes on a project. They furthermore empower the team in specific ways to help the project manager maintain the project. And of course, such processes create badly needed visibility as well, for everyone involved in the project.

Naybour does acknowledge there are some basic instances where informal project management could work out, but even then, it is not completely informal:

…I do not mean the abandonment of formal processes and procedures but instead informal communications and discussions outside the formal procedures and some flexibility about which formal procedures to use. Because sometimes flexibility and a dynamic approach are necessary to get over a hurdle and it is the project manager’s job to know when some flexibility is required and when it can have a positive effect on the project outcome. Equally it is their job to know when sticking rigidly to procedures can have a negative effect of the project.

Otherwise, yes, formal project management is a must. And to conclude, I should backtrack and say that Lil Jon was a surprisingly excellent leader on The Celebrity Apprentice.

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