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Survey Results on Projects of Individuals

by Mira Vlach on June 15, 2008:

Summary: Individual's willingness and self-confidence to manage a project is influenced by several factors. It is determined mostly by the previous managing experience, knowledge of the project subject and personal preference, followed by knowledge of the project management theory. This statement is one of the results of my recent project management survey.

Survey results

In order to find out how the general public perceives project management, I carried out a simple questionnaire survey in March 2008. The sample of more then twenty respondents was as follows:

The questionnaire has been divided into several parts, which were based mostly on open questions. The parts were focused on the awareness and knowledge of project management, hands-on experience with their own projects and self-assessment regarding their willingness and self-confidence to manage specific projects.

Although the respondents were not many, I dare say that the analysis has brought a few interesting ideas and bits of knowledge. The most challenging part of analysis was to determine which factors have influence on individual's self-confidence to manage projects. The knowledge of project management theory has probably only a limited influence, because even people with minimal knowledge dared to manage even really complex projects (in case they are given long enough time to prepare for it). On the other hand, people who said their knowledge of project management theory was high were consistently more self-confident and daring then the average. So it can be said, that the ignorance of project management theory does not discourage individuals from managing projects while the knowledge of the theory makes individuals more self-confident to accept demanding assignments.

According to analysis, there are more important factors influencing self-confidence and willingness of individuals to manage projects: previous managing experience, knowledge of the project subject and personal preference.

Knowledge of the project management theory

According to the answers, most of the respondents had heard about the project management. When asked to write about their associations to the word „project“, they often described it similarly to the usual definitions of project. Other common associations were: a plan, work, EU subsidy to new EU members' projects, change, goal etc.

At the self-assessment of knowledge almost 70% of people claimed to have only below-average knowledge of project management theory (values from 1 to 4 on the graph below). About 40% had none or only minimal knowledge of the theory.

Survey results: Knowledge of the PM theory amongst respondents (self-assessment)
Graph: Respondents' knowledge of the project management theory based on their self-assessment

Experience with personal projects

The most common projects in people' personal lives according to the research are:

The most common lessons learned from their projects were to start in time with the preparations, not to underestimate the project's duration, care about good time-management, keep proper documentation and improve communication.

Often mentioned negative personal characteristics were low persistence, inconsistency, not meeting dead-lines, necessity to always remind others of their duties and lack of experience or knowledge in relation to the project's subject.

The list of positive personal characteristics that a project manager should posses contained experience, reliability, diligence, good communicative skills, responsibility, enthusiasm and knowledge of the related topic.

What kind of projects would respondents dare to manage?

One of the parts of the survey questioned the willingness and self-perceived ability to manage specific projects. It contained a list of twelve projects and the respondent had to answer whether he or she would dare to manage the projects and how much time they would need for personal preparation before the project started. The choice was that they could start: after a few days (A), after 3 months (B), after 3 years (C) and the last option was that they would not dare to manage the project even after a 3-year-long personal preparation (D). The answers are in the table below. One of the few surprises was that almost 20 % of the respondents would never run a summer camp for children.

Survey results: How did the respondents dare to manage specific projects
Table: The projects the respondents would dare to manage and the time needed for the personal preparation

Other survey results

The survey has confirmed my assumption that project management is not only for companies or organisations, but that it also relates to most individuals in some parts of their lives. Though the scale of such personal projects is naturally smaller than in the business environment, the good project's results are just as important to the people concerned. That is why I outlined my vision on how to improve and ease the management of projects for non-professionals in my last article.

Most of the respondents stated that they felt the need for consultation or advice. They also wanted to prepare for their important upcoming projects. For this reason, I am going to address some specific types of projects in the future. Any feedback is important for me, so please feel free to share your own experience or opinion.

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