How to develop Olympic Project Management Skills

Ian NeedsThis article was contributed by Ian Needs (Marketing Manager at KeyedIn Solutions).
It’s been almost a year since London Olympics. Imagine that you were the transportation programme manager during the Games. It’s a huge responsibility.
Where would you begin? How do you stay organized?
Most of us think of Olympic project management as a hypothetical problem. For Sue Kershaw, however, it was everyday life.
Kershaw was the Deputy Director for Transport for the Olympic Delivery Authority from 2010 to 2012, and previously the Head for Project Management for the ODA’s Transport Team. He oversaw all transport projects in preparation for the 2012 London Games.
Her support and guidance enabled high-value projects such as the maintenance and improvement of London’s public transport infrastructure to succeed.
How can you improve your programme or project management skills to an Olympic level?
Profit from your past experience
Sue Kershaw is one of only a few female Fellows of The Institution of Civil Engineers of the UK (since 1999). She is also one of two women in the UK to have been made Honorary Fellows of the Association for Project Management in 2011. She was the former head of Transport for London’s Project Management Centre of Excellence.
Kershaw is a specialist in large-scale, high-profile construction projects. She draws on her 25-years of industry experience to gain a deeper understanding of construction project management and program management.
Her popularity as a speaker on the topic is due to her unique perspective and her ability make project management principles clear to her audience. Both of these are the result of her many years of experience in the field.
Lesson learned: Even if you don’t have industry experience, just because you can manage a project doesn’t mean that you should. You can either build on your existing experience or seek out new experience in areas that interest you.
Keep it to yourself
Kershaw’s career is a great example for future project managers. Her publications of best practice documentation and legacy reports have made Kershaw a strong advocate for project management, and particularly the “clienting” aspect of project management.
Kershaw needed to know who had which information in order to maintain productive collaboration among more than 40 organizations. Even in a smaller program, collaboration and information sharing go hand in hand.
Kershaw was responsible for ensuring that all information, from transportation demand forecasts to progress reporting, reached the right recipients at the correct time and that they understood the implications. “Collaborative working was essential at every level from Board to operations,” the Institution of Civil Engineers legacy document on the programme confirms.
The lesson learned: Everyone appreciates being able to understand useful information. Track information sharing in your projects so you know who has it and make it as easy-to-use. Don’t forget to share relevant information with clients, and educate them about best practices.
Make sure you have the right tools for your job
Kershaw had access a variety of tools to keep the Olympic transport programme on track. You’ll need tools that are appropriate for your projects and programs.
Lesson learned: Although project management software is widely used in organizations these days, some project managers still prefer to use pen-and-paper. There are many project management software options available. Many of them are flexible and highly customizable. Make sure to take the time to research your options before you choose one.
About the author: Ian Needs, M.