We have all heard of institutions such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). These bodies provide proven methodologies and frameworks for project management. While those are widely used for larger and mega construction projects, in my experience working for construction project managers I have noticed that they are barely ever used for smaller to mid-size projects.
These tend to be managed by a combination of personal experience and corporate culture.
Casey Sledge from Sledge Engineering is a prime example of that. Founded in 2004, they are a professional firm that provides Program and Project Management services for local governments. Their success is based on a small, selective client base and high quality results. Sledge Engineering has a proven record of cost savings while improving results for clients. They have a different perspective than traditional firms; they focus on items other firms overlook. They have learned to manage the smallest details while maintaining a broad perspective. They seem to have managed to deliver excellent projects with high customer satisfaction while staying away from frameworks such as the PMBOK.
I had the opportunity to ask Casey a few questions about this. As you will see from this conversation, personal productivity and personal project management is essential to Casey’s success. As a project manager myself, I could not agree more.
Cesar: How did you become involved with construction management?
Casey: I started my career after college working for the City of Colleyville, TX – they always had something under construction with little staff, so I learned very quickly.
Cesar: Over the years, how has your approach to construction management changed?
Casey: I have learned the human side of the equation; it always gets down to people and relationships.
Cesar: Did you develop your own methodology?
Casey: More my own proven techniques than methodology. I never accepted someone else’s methods (from books or field experience) as the best way things could get completed. I always (and still do) thought that certain things could be done faster, cheaper, and better.
Cesar: What is your opinion of existing methodologies and frameworks such as the PMBOK offered by the Project Management Institute?
Casey: I tend to ignore or avoid the frameworks of others. I have found others information helpful, but know information must be applied uniquely to each project. When I start to review the PMBOK, it feels very scholastic – like it was created to be able to test someone’s knowledge of PMBOK. I feel that creating terminology and definitions and acronyms does not improve my ability to actually deliver projects. But I can appreciate anyone who is trying to learn project management.
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Some of Sledge Engineering recent projects
Cesar: What tools do you use to manage your projects?
Casey: Everything must be digital – no paper when possible. So a lot of email and spreadsheets. I have found most project teams resistant to using 3rd party PM software, no matter how effective – because email and spreadsheets are still very effective. We use MS Project – though less and less it seems. I also use Omnifocus for the iPad and iPhone with great success internally.
Cesar: Can you tell me more about how you use Omnifocus? This is mostly known for personal productivity, how do you use it in the context of a project?
Casey: Sure, I have been using Omnifocus for about a year now. It is for personal productivity, but my productivity is delivering projects. Any project manager will always have an un-ending list of things to do for each project. I always try to make sure that the project is not waiting on me. Also, I always work on multiple projects at a time, which can be difficult to prioritize.With Omnifocus, I can keep my to-do list separated by project, even by mapped location, yet I can view and prioritize tasks (regardless of which project it is for) by using the Forecast feature. The ability to have due dates for each task is the key for me. I used to use MS Outlook Calendar to do this. I can also easily send tasks to other project members. I can use voice recording for tasks as well. With Omnifocus, I never forget a task.
Cesar: Thanks Casey for answering those questions!
Final thought: personal productivity and project management
So there you have it. A successful project manager who does not use widely accepted frameworks. However, as Casey explained it is absolutely important for any project manager to be productive and stay on top of their projects. Casey uses tools such as