Questions about Project Management, for the 2014 SLA-NY Conference-Expo

Update 10/11/2014: I was unable to participate in this conference as I had to go out of town at the last minute. But here NYU’s own, Eric Stedfeld, representing for NYU project management at the event!

I’ve been invited to speak on 9/18 on a panel about project management in libraries at the 2014 SLA-NY Conference and Expo (the New York chapter of the Special Libraries Association). In advance of the event, the organizers have asked panelists to provide brief answers to three questions, which will then run in their chapter newsletter. I figured others might be interested in the answers as well, so here they are.

1. What is one way to meet the challenge of getting library staff to understand how to do project-based work and how it differs from operational work?

Two related concepts: scope creep and the project charter. The most effective way to show people the benefit of project management methods is to talk to them about the dreaded “scope creep” (when projects morph and change and they’re never “done” because no one agrees on what “done” means and how to achieve it). Then you explain how the process of creating and agreeing upon a project charter–which clearly defines what the project will and won’t accomplish–provides a way to put the breaks on scope creep. It’s a powerful tool.

2. Communication is a key best practice for project success. What is one method, format or tool you use as part of the communication of projects that you would like to share?

It’s important to recognize that the people with whom we work on projects all have different communication styles and preferences: some prefer email, some prefer face-to-face, some prefer to communicate via issue tracking systems. Some only want occasional project highlights, some need day-to-day detail. To be effective project managers, we need to understand people’s communication needs, styles, and preferences, and design flexible communication strategies that will be most effective for the project team.

3. Can you describe in one sentence why librarians should develop project management skills?

Project management methodologies and practices provide effective tools and strategies to collaboratively define problems and initiatives, describe how you’re going to solve them, and then get that work done.