Making Our Education More Useful: Project Management for Everyone

Einstein said ‘Never memorize what you can look up in books’, so why do we focus so much on what we learn as opposed to how we learn? I don’t believe that the objective of education should be the memorization of facts. Instead it should be focused on the acquisition
of useful skills.

In effect I believe that in our pursuit of knowledge we are missing the forest for the trees. Remembering formulas, dates and events is important, but it’s far more important to understand how
ideas have shaped our beliefs and what lessons can be learned from history,
philosophy and science.

I see a real need to recognize that students are graduating without decent communication or organizational skills. They don’t know how to run a meeting, plan a project, breakdown their
work or set goals. How did I come up with this scathing criticism? Well first
of all let me tell you it’s not a new phenomenon, this problem has been around
for awhile. I have witnessed it myself as a student, as a lecturer in
university with a younger generation and importantly have witnessed it amongst
co-workers in large corporations.

So what’s Project Management and how can it solve the problem? A basic definition of Project Management is simply a set of skills which enable someone to successfully complete a project
in the most efficient manner possible. This body of knowledge covers many
things like setting objectives, breaking work down into pieces, setting
schedules for the completion of work, focusing on communication plans with
interested parties and so on. This type of analysis has largely been confined
to certain types of organizations like IT departments and Construction
companies. However if we take a step back and think about it, the skills I
mentioned are pertinent in so many places.

I think the most powerful thing we can do is provide students with a set of skills they will use forever. Therefore when students are working on group projects there should be dual
objectives; the first being the subject matter of the project (whatever that
may be) and the second being the focus on the process of completing the

When working on a group project, instructors should provide students with a methodology to follow. They should be forced to write a project outline, set goals, come up with a communication
plan and break their project down into manageable tasks. Forcing students to
take these steps will teach them valuable lessons about working with people and
getting organized.

Let me be clear that while I see a gaping hole in the skill set of students, I don’t blame anyone directly for the problem. I think the issue is one that many are simply unaware of and that
it will take a lot of work to change the system.

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