Project management does not always paint an exciting picture what with different Gantt charts and budget sheets. Recently, I was struck by some interesting quotes by Scott Berkun. Berkun is of the view that “Everything is a project“. And in case people (like me) say that but project management is not exciting, Burken has a ready answer: “project management is as boring as the thing being managed”.
Although I don’t entirely agree with the second part but Burken is definitely right that everything is a project and that project management does not have to be seen in a very restrictive way. For example, Burken observes that athletes manage a project everyday. There is no question that athletes don’t just do their thing in the field. They need to take care of strategies, training schedules, performance trends of their adversaries, traveling itineraries, budgets, financial issues etc.
Similarly, a PhD is not about just showing up at the department every day and doing some thinking. There are daily goals such as looking up a certain reference, meeting a relevant researcher or updating your collaborator. There are short term goals such as mini surveys, paper deadlines etc. And of course there is the long term goal of the thesis which is effectively writing and editing your own book. There may be bottle necks in the way such as you not knowing a certain technique to solve a problem. Extra effort is then needed to equip your self with new techniques.
There are many other non-academic things which need to taken care for example funding. One may have to write regular progress reports to one’s funding agencies. These updates need to be approved or signed by your advisor well before he/she leaves for the Christmas break. If one is running out of funding, new grant applications have to be made and these require a systematic and orderly approach. Similarly, conferences and travel schedules need to be planned properly. This can only be done with some idea of project management even if an Excel sheet is not being managed every day.