Project Management Navigation Expert, Kelly Schactler discusses key components to successful project management

By Jeremy Baker

Kelly partners with small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to help them bring more authenticity, simplicity, and alignment into what she calls “the art and craft of project management”. She does this through workshops, webinars, online courses as well as coaching and mentoring. Her passion is working with those who want to discover more about project management, from accidental or aspiring project managers to project managers who need a boost, to organizations who don’t quite know where to start with project management and want some hand-holding. Her focus recently has been on assisting small businesses and nonprofits to figure out how project management can make a difference in achieving their goals and maximizing their impact and value in the communities they serve.  Kelly does this by partnering with organizations and assessing where project management tools and processes will empower them to deliver their services and products with better results.

When working with individuals in a one-to-one space, Kelly partners with clients who want to break into the project management profession, move up through the project management ranks, or transition into a formal project management career. Recently, she worked with a Broadway production manager to translate her theater management experience into a formal project management framework.  As someone who had been in her profession for many years, she was ready to try something new; she now works for a large aerospace manufacturer in project management. Kelly also does one-to-one coaching with individuals who want help leveling up and moving into a formal project manager role, as well as partnering with seasoned project managers who might want outside guidance as they head up the project management job family ladder. 

I sit down with Kelly to get a better understanding of how better project management skills and processes can benefit organizations.  

 

What are the benefits organizations get through better project management?

When I start with a client, they often have been operating in a mode where they expect their staff will execute on the projects they’re responsible for without giving them the tools and skills they need to do a good job, which is completely unfair to the employees; this is usually a big blind spot in organizations. And this is why I’m there, to begin with –  because there are no formal project management tools or processes in place. I find leadership and managers pushing staff into a stress mode to complete projects with pie-in-the-sky expectations leaving staff to do all this crazy multitasking, trying to keep all the plates and cups in the air to keep an appearance of order when there is none, to begin with. This is a recipe for random, time-wasting meetings, erratic, confusing stakeholder communication, and general chaos where stakeholders have no idea what’s going on in the project lifecycle. Yet, the leaders are sitting there saying, “Okay everyone! Come on! Produce these awesome projects and service delivery outcomes.” 

My passion is to come into a situation like this and partner with leadership to show them the tangible, proven benefits of project management while keeping it simple and relatable to the work they do. There are just a few tools and concepts they need to move the needle in a positive direction in their project delivery process. I include coaching, service delivery excellence, and embed concepts of personal mindset, authenticity, and professional excellence. These are the keys to successful project delivery.

The first thing I help clients understand is that if they’re not going to give their teams the right tools to do the projects, then they need to shift their expectations on outcomes; having the right tools and expected outcomes are intricately connected. One of the biggest results of applying the right project management tools into their operations is that the client’s staff are now equipped with the right tools to execute the project work with the understanding of how to best leverage those tools in their projects. 

This equipping and understanding increases staff and team confidence for leading projects because now they have the tools AND the know-how. I also see a greater level of team collaboration and flow that doesn’t exist otherwise and seems to help project teams move out of the Storming stage and into the Norming stage of team performance. The organization also gets better insight into their project tasks and deliverables because they have clearer visibility into the project schedule and lifecycle, as well as more efficient delegation and prioritization of tasks as the staff is now thinking through these things. The project management tools are prompting them to have a plan. They now can manage their timelines, scopes, and budgets, and provide that transparency into the gaps.  

There’s also a consistency factor that comes into play. Part of what I do is to work with the organization to take the standardized project management templates and processes I introduce and then assist them in customizing them based on how they operate. A little standardization creates less confusion, reduced anxiety, and generally more consistency around how staff approach projects. The added benefits include providing a clear pathway to get projects done while minimizing duplication of effort. Departments also become more aligned, while the quality of the project deliverables and ultimately, customer satisfaction, are vastly improved.  My client’s customers are impressed because now they have insight into the work being done on their behalf and they can see there’s a framework behind it, creating trust and eagerness to keep doing business with them.

This happens often with the nonprofits I work with. Once they have some project management tools and processes in place, they can go back to their funders with a laser-focused project plan and schedule in which they’ve outlined everything from assumptions, constraints, and dependencies to desired project objectives. The funders usually don’t see this type of work and they think, “Wow! Okay! I think I might want to give you money again to fund future projects because you’re actually putting thought behind them.” 

 

What are the common myths and misconceptions around project management?

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Jeremy Baker

Jeremy Baker has a passion for helping his clients get recognition as the expert in their field. His approach to interviewing helps his clients tell their stories and talk about their unique set of experiences and background.