In this review, I will be critically reflecting on my individual experiences, considering what I’ve learned, understanding what I could have done differently and what skills and attributes I will take forward on my next project. Project management can be defined in many different ways, however, I have chosen a definition from APM’s website reading “project management is the application of process, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives.” I have chosen this definition because I believe it directly relates to my project as we all have different skills and experiences that we were able to bring to the project in order for it is success. For our project, we decided to focus on the ‘Importance of Project Life cycle’ because it was a theory that interested us all, and I thought it was cleaver to link carrying out a project whilst learning about stages of carrying out a project. I will be discussing four topics: Communication, Motivation, Time management and Risk management.
Effective communication is essential in a group project for success. Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another. When we communicate, we are trying to share information, an idea, or an attitude among the team involved in the project. There are many platforms in which we communicated; social online platforms, email, group meetings and OneDrive.
As a group before this project, we knew of each other, but had not worked together before. Therefore, in the beginning stages of the project, I was slow to respond in our group chat on our chosen social media ‘WhatsApp’, due to not being comfortable inputting my ideas or knowing my role in the group. We were in Tuckman’s forming stage of his development model. I became dependent on a confident member of the team, who naturally took on the project manager role. However, this quickly changed after a few group meetings, and I became much more confident offering ideas and participating in group chats. I have learned that it is important to communicate from the very beginning and to avoid starting communication online as I think it is important to meet your team first building from a face-to-face relationship then developing online chats.
Social information processing theory explains the development of work relationships in computer-mediated environments. Although online interaction may take time before becoming effective as compared to face-to-face communication, it is a good communication tool. (Lewis, 2007) Online communication allowed me to constantly keep up to date with what was happening in the group and give my input. Another great thing about the WhatsApp group chat is that if I was struggling with certain aspects of a task, which occurred occasionally, I was able to get an immediate response from my team guiding me through it. If I didn’t have this platform, it would be very time consuming, starting a task and having to wait until the next team meeting to clarify any misunderstanding, most likely causing a deadline issue. However, our WhatsApp group chat proved to have a slight issue as I couldn’t be on my phone all the time, resulting in some conversations not having an immediate contribution and having to play catch up later, at times prohibiting my input. Another issue with online group chats is potential for misunderstanding, as messages can be understood differently as you cannot hear the tone of voice or interpret body language. Despite this issue, WhatsApp actually has a voice recording option allowing us to send a voice note on the chat, enabling us to hear tone of voice. This was often used by myself and my team to prevent any misinterpretation. The business world I am learning and developing in, has many different ways of communicating, with a rise in ‘computer-mediated environments’ so it is imperative I am able to use online chats and emails as a channel of communication, as I will be using this on a daily basis when working in a business full time.
As a group establishing our roles, I was not confident speaking up and often conformed when there was an issue. This is referred to a ‘Groupthink’ which is a communication theory by Irving Janis that explains the behavioural pattern to avoid conflict and reach to a consensus without a critical analysis of the issue (Binder, 2007). However, I began to understand the importance of communicating any issues I had, as it is key to trying to improve the project. Ideas build and become more creative and interesting when they have had group input even when conflict is involved. If every team member conforms, we are not going to develop a successful project. It is important to accept constructive criticism and not to take it personally, as it shows passion for improving the project.
Communication was often hindered for me using the Onedrive as I found that it proved difficult with my laptop preventing me from editing online, so I often had to download uploaded work, update it and re-upload it again as a second version of the document. This caused confusion leading to a couple of occasions whereby there was a lack of communication and myself and one of my team were both using the same template, however, she was editing the document online and I had downloaded it. I have learned it is very useful having a place online where the group can upload and view each other’s work, also being able to edit and make changes to it, however in the future I will use the ‘Google drive’ as opposed to the ‘OneDrive’ as I believe it to be more reliable.
Time management is a key factor in project management, often with projects success criteria being measured on time and budget. It is the ability to plan and organise the time spent on activities for a project ensuring it stays on track and doesn’t fall behind. The result of good time management is increased effectiveness and productivity. It involves skills such as planning, setting goals and prioritising. Our project didn’t have a budget; however, we did have a deadline, with meeting it being one of our success criteria. I used different approaches to manage my time effectively such as planning, prioritising and delegating.
Firstly, Planning. Shenhar defines planning as “what comes before action”. This applies to many aspects of my project as we used many planning tools such as a work breakdown structure before beginning our project to ensure we completed every deliverable and understood an order in which they needed to be complete. Effective planning often leads to success. Another planning tool we used was creating an ongoing Gantt Chart. The Gantt chart was a really useful approach to planning the project as it broke up each section into the four project life cycles. Following our project proposal, pitching to APM, it became clear that we were basing our project on the ‘Importance of project life cycle’, but not actually incorporating that into our project, as Russel said, “not following our own advice”. Therefore, with the Gantt chart, we used the four stages of PLC (initiation, planning, execution and closure) and arranged each deliverable into the right stage allocating realistic time of completion. This allowed us to plan out the whole project and stay focused on our deadline to succeed. However, Bart argues that too much planning can limit creativity. This I would argue could be true depending on the planning tools used and how rigid they are. I believe the Gantt chart is a great planning tool as you can follow it but if an aspect didn’t perform as expected, I can make changes and devise a new plan. It helped me see what had been done, what I had to do next and how long I had to do it. I have learned that planning is such a key element to project management and can actually often take longer than the project it iself. I cannot foresee what curveballs are going to be thrown at me, and that plans always change, but …
Secondly, it was important to prioritise my time effectively. “Prioritising allows you to identify the most important tasks at any moment and give those tasks more attention, energy and time. It ensures all deadlines are met and aims to minimise stress”. We were only given one deadline to submit all our work to, but it was important to set many deadlines for tasks to be complete as often one task couldn’t happen without another one being complete; such as a critical path analysis (CPA) which couldn’t be complete without a work breakdown structure (WBS). Once the WBS was complete I created a critical path analysis This method is a step by step technique to define critical and non-critical tasks with the aim of finishing all tasks within a time frame as not all tasks are of equal importance. Initially, I found this tool difficult to understand and create, making it challenging to incorporate it within the project, but once I practised and got to grips with it, I quickly understood that it was effective in indicating what I needed to focus more of my time on.
Lastly, it was essential that we delegated tasks and responsibilities between members of the group. It is important that as a group we all contributed equally not only as we are being graded as a team, but because it is crucial for my learning and personal development that I challenged myself and took part in tasks that I’ve never done before such as, a risk assessment. It was also important that we all had individual work to complete for the project to protect us again social loafing, Ringlemann’s theory that refers to the concept that “people exert less effort on a group task compared to working alone creating a tendency for some members to contribute less”, potentially causing conflict and unfair workloads. As a group we wanted to prevent this so I ensured I did my fair share of the work, promoting group cohesion. With having individual tasks delegated, I understood the importance of each deadline and was able to work within the timeframe I had set myself. In future projects, I will ensure to always delegate work fairly and ensure deadlines are set, as I like having a time frame to work in.
Risk management is hugely important to every project to identify all the potential risks. An uncertain event or set of circumstances if it occurs, will influence the achievement of the project objectives, which could be detrimental to the project success. “Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing and controlling threats.” Our project had many threats, so I decided it was important to create a risk assessment identifying what our threats were, why it was a problem, what we are doing to prevent it, the likelihood of it occurring and the severity of the risk if it occurred. A major issue that I did find with the risk assessment I produced is that I did not consider the consequences and how to deal with a risk becoming reality. Looking at APM’s risk process model, it is clear that my risk assessment is lacking the stage of planning our response to the risks occurring. One of the risks I determined was potential technical difficulties. Technical difficulties often occur in projects and was definitely a threat to our group using Prezi presentation. I had never used or even heard of this software before, and as great and visually appealing as I thought it was, I was concerned about how time-consuming it would be to learn using Prezi as opposed to using Microsoft PowerPoint, a platform I am very confident navigating. However, understanding the risk, I considered it important to learn something new, and after spending considerable time on Prezi, I quickly became confident in using it. I am glad that our team didn’t let this risk detour us from using Prezi as it was very popular at the exhibition and enables us to stand out. In this case, I learned that taking a risk paid off and I will definitely be using Prezi presentation in the future.
Overall, I can say with faith that I believe our project to be a success. I have measured this by my group’s success criteria of: producing all key deliverables, meeting deadlines and positive feedback at the exhibition. I was delighted that our team won the best poster at the exhibition as it was a true testament to our individual creativity and cohesive teamwork. I was extremely lucky to have worked with such a great team, all consistently working hard and supporting each other throughout the project. I was pleased with how we showcased our exhibition and pitched our hard work with passion. I believe my input to have been to a high standard matching that of the rest of my team. I will take so much theory from this module into my placement year and future career, as taking part in projects and project management is part of every different industry of business, enabling me to apply my new-found knowledge with confidence. Writing my this ICR enabled me to reflect allowing me to move from experiencing to understanding. Self-reflection helps me recognise the progress I have made, whilst allowing me to consider improvements I could potentially make and what I will take with me in the future.