Project management is the application of knowledge, processes, skills, tools, and techniques to ensure the success of a project. Professionals in this field are highly respected and are considered essential in almost all industries.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide defines a project as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. One can consider an Army Band concert as a service, so the application of project management principles can be used to ensure the best possible outcome. Project management includes specific process groups and knowledge management areas, which include measures of success along the entire lifecycle of the project. Here we will apply these processes to the planning, executing, and assessment of an Army Band mission.
The life cycle of a project (mission) begins with: 1. The request/tasking or need for the service. 2. The organization and preparation phase. 3. The actual execution of the mission. 4. Finally, the closing activities and assessments. Throughout the lifecycle, work is constantly monitored to ensure the project stays on task and adjusted as external factors influence the outcome. In project management these tasks are categorized into five process groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring, and Closing. All the groups overlap except initiating and closing groups.
The initiating process group contains activities required when a new project (mission) is undertaken. This includes- defining the scope, identifying internal and external stakeholders, resources required, and assigning a project manager. In the Army we would call the project manager the action officer. This person is empowered through mission command to make decisions and is responsible for delivering the service. Army Band missions where the unit is the sole focus of the event are the best use cases for project management principles. The scope of an Army Band mission would include number and type of performances and also the time required to rehearse and execute. Stakeholders would be any external sponsors, higher headquarters leadership, contractors, and unit leadership. Financial resources would be defined along with current levels of equipment and personnel available.
Once initiated, the planning phase may begin. This process formally lays out the total scope, objectives, and the courses of action required. The planning process has the largest number of factors of all the project management tasks. These include:
1. Scope management – defining and controlling the work required to complete a project.
2. Time management – defining the time and schedule for project completion
3. Cost and Procurement management – all financial activities required for project execution.
4. Quality and Risk management – all activities required for stakeholder satisfaction and mitigation of risk.
5. People and Communications management – defining the human resource requirements and communications for project completion.
The PMBOK guide actually defines ten knowledge areas, it has been simplified here, for easier comparison with Army Band missions. The planning process results in a project management plan, which is the reference source for all stakeholders. Defining the objective is probably the most difficult task for Army Bands. It is can be as simple as “put on a concert,” but this doesn’t get to the heart of the mission statement. Putting on a concert is means to achieve an objective such as “Enhance the confidence and patriotism among the American people.” This planning process is continuous throughout the project as changes occur. The manager must ensure the plan is updated and communicated to all involved.
After work has been defined by the project management plan, the executing process an begin. This is where the activities required to satisfy the project are undertaken, along with the coordination of people and resources. Even though risk analysis is performed during the planning phase, unforeseen risks or opportunities may arise which affect the plan. In these cases, the manager must decide whether to request a change to the plan, or stay the course based on all information available. As an example, suppose the Band is expecting delivery of a new sound support system, that is critical for the mission as the venue does not have any sound support. A delay in shipping will cause the equipment to arrive too late to be integrated into the show. The manager requests the use of a contractor to provide sound support in order to deliver the same quality. This may cause an increase in budget, but the senior stakeholders believe it is worth the cost and the project plan is updated to reflect this change. The planning and executing processes overlap until the project is in the completion phase.
During the entire project period the project manager is responsible for monitoring and controlling progress and performance. Regular measurement and analysis during the project ensures that activities are on track and meet the requirements of the project plan. If deviations are discovered, then action can be taken immediately, and appropriate adjustments are made. Often, trade-offs between budget and schedule must be decided and this process group allows for those decisions to be made. An obvious implementation of this process is the rehearsals leading up to the final performance. Soldiers and their leaders are constantly measuring their efforts against a mental baseline of a quality performance. This is highly subjective, but there are many technical aspects which can be controlled through diligence practice.
The closing process group is used to complete all work and formally end the project. Activities include: post-project reviews, documenting lessons learned, archive relevant data, close out any procurement agreements, and perform individual/team assessments. The after-action review is an example Army activity that would be conducted during the closing process group. It is critical that data is captured so it can inform future projects. Army Bands tend to treat each mission as independent, without regard for how lessons learned can be applied to future missions. By thinking of a mission as a project, Soldiers are better able to apply a cyclical mindset which leads to continual improvement.
The Adjutant General School offers the Certified Associate in Project Management and Project Management Professional credential to all 42 series Soldiers. The coursework is completely self-directed and those with proper motivation will obtain a useful skill, which is applicable both while serving in the Army and civilian life. Thanks to the hard-working professionals who help to make this opportunity available in order to increase the intellectual capacity of Army. As the Army implements its Talent Management Strategy, Soldiers with project management credentials will be highly valued by organizations looking to have auditable, efficient processes for achieving their mission.