Although a person’s job title may not include “Project Manager,” attendees at the most recent YPAL Excelerate workshop on Project Management learned that everyone is a project manager.

Dr. Sharon Kerrick, Interim Dean of the Rubel School of Business at Bellarmine University, kicked things off in the morning with a dynamic presentation on project management and setting goals. She said the key to avoiding upset is to set expectations from the get-go, so everyone understands the priorities and end goal.

Attendees were encouraged to create their own personal or professional goal using the SMART system (specific, measurable, achievable / actionable / accountable, realistic, time-based). Dr. Kerrick shared that people don’t set goals for four reasons: (1) don’t realize the importance, (2) don’t know how, (3) fear of failure, (4) fear of rejection. A month into the new year, attendees seemed eager for a fresh chance to create an actionable goal, and several shared their plans.

Some other key takeaways from Dr. Kerrick included:
• Link individual goals to organizational goals to keep everyone motivated and forward-thinking
• Collect all of your thoughts before asking for guidance from senior leadership, showing you value their time
• Know how success will be measured in every project you do, so everyone is happy with the finished product

Of course, the best way to learn about project management strategies is to actually put them into action. Attendees were broken up into groups, and tasked with a very broad project: to plan the best, most fun and engaging graduate party for the class. Each group followed Dr. Kerrick’s Exercise in Project Planning to Maximize Efficiencies worksheet, and had one opportunity to ask Dr. Kerrick any questions they had (remember—collect all of your thoughts before asking for guidance!).

Results were all over the board, with some groups hosting a simple event that night, and others planning more extravagant events weeks or months away. Working through the categories on the worksheet (which included SMART Goals, assumptions, risks, task assignments / due dates, monitoring progress, and evaluation of project), provided a real-world opportunity to put project management strategies into practice, and was a great activity to wrap up the morning.

Following lunch, Madison Hamman, a Project Manager at the BlueSky Network (the venture philanthropic arm of Samtec Inc.) delved into what being a project manager actually means, including some of his favorite tips and tools. He equated a project manager to the glue holding together all the different branches of an organization, and said a good project manager is a generalist, keeps learning, celebrates successes, and pilots projects, among other things.

Hamman warned attendees to stay away from vanity metrics when assessing projects or ventures, and to focus on better metrics such as active users, revenue, profit, and cost of acquisition. He shared examples of projects he has worked on both through BlueSky and independent ventures like the summer he founded a popsicle startup, selling the tasty treats out of a motorcycle sidecar.

The day wrapped up with an excellent panel of project management professionals, Casey Dixon (Global Human Resources Project Manager for Flex and VP of Programming for YPAL), Daro Mott (Chief of Performance Improvement for Louisville Metro Government), Yvonne Stutesman (VP – Senior Manager of Project Services at Republic Bank) and Wendi Tatum (Strategic Initiatives Project Manager at Kentucky Farm Bureau).

Only two of the four panelists were certified project management professionals, and each addressed how they got into the project management path. The panel hit on a lot of the same themes from the morning session, including setting goals / strategies for buy-in from your team, start with the end in mind, and set up specific metrics to protect you and give you a roadmap for the project.

Attendees had plenty of time to pick the brains of these four accomplished project managers during the panel session and additional Q&A. The group also talked about looking for nontraditional approaches and people when creating teams, and to listen to understand, not to respond.

A big thanks to the sponsors for the program, Bellarmine University, Kentuckiana Construction Users Council, Kentucky Farm Bureau, and Republic Bank, for providing an awesome professional development opportunity for aspiring project managers in Louisville.

 Click Here to see the worksheet utilized on how to maximize efficiencies in project planning.