Manager Skills Series: Project management

Guest post by Ken Burnett, VP/Director of Training and Business Development, Bank of American Fork

This series is written from experience and is part of Bank of American Fork’s management training program. The program embraces the philosophy that management is a skill-based job, and managers need to learn specific skills to be successful.

Project management is a systematic way to get work done.  For example, if you are trying to re-model your bathroom, would you build it without meeting a contractor? Setting a budget? Without a building plan?  Wouldn’t you get approval from your spouse or partner?  Following a project management approach will help you get the outcome you want—whether it’s a new bathroom in your home, adding new software in your business or any other project you want to run smoothly.           

Project management should follow the IDEA model: initiate, design, execute and assess. 


You need to first scope out the work.  Use the 5Ws and an H to scope out the work or project:

What are you trying to accomplish? This should be a project description and a goal.

When does it have to be accomplished? You should have a solid deadline.

Who will be involved, managing the project and sponsoring the project? Remember to include all different people and teams that will have a part.

Why are we doing this? This is a good time for a cost-benefit analysis?

Where will this happen? What part of the organization will be affected?

How? Make sure you have a timeline with deliverables.

If you can answer these questions, you are well on your way to a successful work. Initiating includes figuring out where the project responsibilities lie. The person who sponsors the work may not be same person as the project manager.  The project sponsor is the owner and person responsible for getting the work done.  The manager keeps people on task and reports back to the project sponsor when issues arise.  The project sponsor also signs off that each step is complete.

The next group to be involved is the folks who will be affected.  Again, think about what you would do if you were remodeling your home bathroom. It would be a mistake to not ask your 16-year-old son or daughter about the bathroom plans. Are there enough cupboards for his hair products? Are there enough outlets for her to use her blow-dryer and hair straightener at the same time, should the need arise? You need involve everyone who will be affected by the work.  With business-wide changes, you may also have groups that are involved every time like marketing, IT, training and operations departments.

As you are choosing project dates, determine the three to eight key steps that must happen.  They don’t have to be ordered yet; you should know what has to happen and how long it will take.  After that is the appropriate time to sequence them.


From the start date to the completion date, list out all the things that need to be accomplished. 

For example, if you want to develop a new project, you might list out the steps, with more detail:

• Design the project

• Review

• Develop the new systems and workflow

• Test the process

• Review

• Make changes

• Train and communicate

• Pilot

• Recalibrate and revise

• Implement

You may want to use the completion date and work backward to time each step out. Allocate the time you need for each step.  If you are asked to complete a project in a crunch document the items you are giving up in order to finish in time.  


The most critical part of execution is following the plan that has been developed—simple, but not always easy. Watch for scope creep.  Many projects are derailed by scope creep.   

Scope creep refers to the change in a project’s scope after the project work has started. Typically, the scope expands by the addition of new features to an already approved feature list. As a result, the project drifts away from its original purpose, timeline and budget. 

This change in scope often comes about from small, seemingly insignificant change requests that the project team accepts to keep the project sponsor happy. Sometimes the change requests become numerous enough that they are significant or one of the requests turns out to require much more work than expected.


Project assessment has three components:

• Did we accomplish the goals set out in the idea phase? Does it work?

• What measures have we put in place so that after the project team disbands the organization will be able to monitor the project?

• How did the team function? Did we complete our individual responsibilities?

Using a project management process with well-defined steps, execution and assessment will help you achieve your organization and team goals—and build better bathrooms.

Some skills Ken has talked about are effective discipline, employee development, communication, coaching employees, managing change and strategic planning. What other manager skills do you want to know more about? Tell us in the comments!

Ken Burnett is vice president/director of training and business development for Bank of American Fork. He is responsible for training more than 300 employees on a variety of topics, including coaching and feedback for dozens of senior managers within the organization.

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