Project Management Can Be Like Pulling Tricks Out of a Hat

Magic hat and magic wandProfessional project managers continuously think that others think they are magicians. Things, even the impossible, magically happen with the wave of a magic wand. But we all know this isn’t exactly the case. But if you have “project manager” in your job title, then to some that must mean you can pull a rabbit out of your hat. While a project manager may wear many hats, the truth is, project managers can learn a lot from magicians about project management.

So how are magic and project management related? Joking aside, of course? Here are a few magical tactics that project managers can implement in their project management routines, schedules, and project life cycles that can help them stay on top of the show.

Deliverables. When performing a magic trick or hosting a magic show, it’s all about delivery. The same goes for project management. You can have all the conversations with customers, suppliers, and team members all you want, but at the end of the day, the deliverables are what count. If what you’ve produced isn’t want the customer wanted, or doesn’t meet expectations, or is of poor quality, then it’s back on the project manager. Managing expectations and providing a strong delivery is crucial to any project’s success.

Resources. Of course you can’t perform magic tricks without the right tools. Project management works the same way. A project manager’s resources are his or her props, supplies, or tools needed to put on a great show. Resources may include staff or team members, technology, or budgets, or all of the above. These are crucial to any project, but are also the most challenging to acquire all at once. Project managers also come up short in at least one of these areas, which is also where they are most often expected to perform tricks at the drop of a hat. But project managers can’t exactly cut a volunteer in half when there are no volunteers.

Keep Things in Check. A good rule of thumb is that halfway through a project, or shortly before providing deliverables to a customer, it is best to do a thorough and complete project check. This is a crucial step often referred to as different things: “final check”, “final project audit”, “final review”, etc. But they all mean the same thing: Check the project’s overall completion status, verify that specifications are being carried out correctly, see that requirements are being met, and also verify that the project will be delivered on time. Taking the time to perform a thorough “check” of some kind is always a smart thing to do before the show.

The Show Must Go On. No one likes to think about if or when things go wrong, but it’s something that every project manager needs to consider. Risk assessment and response is another crucial element to project management, and it is of the utmost importance to ensure to determine what the risks are, the potential impact they could have on a project, and what potential solutions are available for if or when they occur. The same goes for a magic trick. Some magic tricks fail, which can be devastating to any act. The truth is, project managers and magicians can’t plan for everything to go wrong, but they should be prepared for when it does. All in all, the show must go on.

All in all, professional and experienced project managers know that they are often times expected to do the impossible. While this is an unrealistic expectation, project managers often end up doing several tricks at once to keep the project moving at a successful and productive rate. Keeping these fundamental—but not necessarily simple—tactics in mind will help any project manager remain at the forefront of any project and ensure overall successfully delivery. It’s show time!

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About Julie

Julie Anne Hoey is the owner and founder of J. H. Language Solutions. She has over four years experience in publishing as a full time editor and project manager. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusett. The main focus of her personal and professional studies has always been language. Her project management experience began while she was working for Victory Productions, a small publishing house in Worcester, MA. She now holds a position at Pearson Learning Solutions, the largest textbook publisher in the world, managing an initiative to ensure that custom higher ed textbooks are more relevant and cost effective for students. As the textbook publishing industry is facing steep competition from digital format books, she has learned to work closely with professors, adopters and field editors all over the country to ensure projects are seen through to successful completion. Her own consulting business, J. H. Language Solutions, is dedicated to helping businesses and individuals with their language needs and challenges whether it be translation, editing, writing blogs, or project management. She can be hired via her oDesk page: