I don't have the same experience provided by David and Frank and they both make important points. I have a couple of others to share:
I ran a small electrical construction business in the Bay Area which involved managing multiple projects that would fade in and out of focus during the building process. As it turned out that kind of day to day seasoning taught me a lot I didn't really understand at the time. When I got a job in a corporation I was surprised most people didn't have that experience and didn't even know where to start when managing projects. A few things I learned are:
1. Manage Defensively. Assume and watch carefully for the unexpected - it will happen. Defining risk and your best guess as to what could go wrong is key to project management. For example, a vendor may not deliver components you need on time or there will be complications installing and integrating those components with existing systems. People in other departments on whom you depend, may not understand or care about your project resulting in delays. If it's a longer project (months or years) technology and priorities may change and force a revision of your plans.
2. Foster Prioritization. People always have a mix of priorities and keeping your project high on the list can be difficult. Therefore, establishing and maintaining a relationship with the key stakeholders and the people key to delivering the project is very important. If those people know and like you they will be more likely to buy into your projects success. They will also be more likely to share what is and isn't going well on the project so you know and can take measures to address those breakdowns.
3. Over Communicate. As stated in 2, you must keep yourself informed on the projects progress real time. When things get off the tracks it's critical to share that with your management and the projects stakeholders (those who sponsored and stand to benefit from your work). Letting them know early allows them to step in and help get things back on track. Failure to communicate with them early means they don't learn about the issues until significant damage has already occurred and you're much more likely to get blamed (with some cause) for the breakdown.
Hagen recommends the following next steps:
- You can practice project management ANY TIME your tasks involve other people. If you tell your parents you're going to mow the lawn and there is no gas for the lawnmower or you don't know what to do with the clippings, anticipating and communicating those issues will be good practice. Keeping them informed on your timeline and progress is also good practice.
- Volunteer to get involved in a project at home, school or at a charity and start to learn to recognize projects and what makes them succeed or fail.
- Treat things you need to do as projects. For example, applying for college is a great exercise. You need to determine where you want to and likely CAN go. You need to familiarize yourself with the requirements and timelines. You probably need to get the registration fees from your parents. You need to provide funding for your education (parents, grants, scholarships, loans) so not just figuring out financing but securing it will generally be a challenge (and a great project ;-).