3 Reasons to Create Your Own Project Management System

I’m a project manager who can’t stand pre-built project management solutions. Churches use them, businesses use them, but frankly, they’re just not as helpful as we act like they are.

I used Microsoft Project. I’ve seen and used cloud based project management solutions—many of the ones available on the market. All the options frustrate me and waste my time. They each taught me something about my process and I’m certainly a better project manager for it, but they each led me to force projects into molds and ultimately inhibited workflow. Here are three reasons why you should create your own project management solution(s).

1. Smart people don’t need every task written out for them.

Writing out milestones and dependent tasks is essential for every project, but writing out every task isn’t. Many project management technology solutions require that every task be written out. (And even if they don’t require it, they make you feel like you should.) I have found myself spending hours writing out tasks when I could be accomplishing things. If you work with smart people, why do you need to write out every task? I work with smart people, so why would I force people into my style of a task list? Having one task list master also makes others feel small and bossed around. I want to work with others because of who they are, not force them to think like me. In addition, ridiculously detailed lists created by “supervisors” are for people who want to check boxes. And people who check boxes will never lead in a meaningful way.

2. To successfully innovate, efficiency must be gained.

The easiest way to save money is to spend less. Bringing in sales is far more difficult than not spending money. For these reasons, the easy solution, which seems cheap, is to adopt someone else’s pre-built system. But doing so will actually cost you more money. It will constrain you. Innovating is already difficult. If you impose someone else’s constraints and methods on your work, you will just make it more complicated. You need efficiency. Create it by making systems for your new process. Don’t lose efficiency by forcing your new process into a machine made for something else or created with variables you don’t need.

3. One-size-fits-all systems can’t accommodate substantial change.

When you adopt a technology solution for project management from someone else, you’re imposing a framework that can’t easily adapt. When you use someone else’s system, you don’t know how it was built, so how can you change it? Things will change and the system must change with you. If your projects are creative, they probably have some flexibility to them, which means you will need to prepare for the inevitable change. You also need to prepare for the human element: changing things because they’re not working. Adaptability is easy when the entire system’s creator is the user(s).

I wish project management was as easy as downloading an app, but it’s not. Systems must be built to accommodate us and our projects—sometimes per unique thing and almost always per unique team. This doesn’t mean you can’t reuse frameworks or have a process—you definitely should do both—but it does mean that you should be cautious when adopting someone else’s. They’re not you. Be unique. Make your own system.

What project management system do you use? Did you build or buy?

One Response to “3 Reasons to Create Your Own Project Management System”

  1. Joel Wilcox February 23, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    I had to use Gantt charts in my graduate program to map out timelines for my thesis. Deadlines are my best friend because they prevent me from going over-budget on time. However, I’m terrible at estimating time constraints, so I need timelines that can be modified with proper justification. That usually means having an “editor” who I can ask for approval to modify my Gantt chart.

    Incidentally, the best part about Gantt charts isn’t the timeline–it’s the ability to visualize how much needs to be done at one time, and when.

    My other principle is having large pieces of paper, ideally graph paper, to work with. I noticed from your other entries and presentations that you prefer to edit on paper instead of digitally; I agree with you, because it’s much easier to visualize plans when you can see them up close, mark them up, and not touch a mouse or keyboard to scroll and zoom to see the entire plan.

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