PM Life Skills: What I Wish I Got Taught In Project Management School

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Few of us set out to become project managers. Many of us find our way there accidentally. We get tapped on the shoulder, handed our first project assignment and struggle to best navigate our way through to delivery of a result, getting things done as best we can along the way.

Where formally developed skills are earned, they generally take the shape of process-based training. The vast majority of training available for project managers essentially outlines the steps to take a project from idea (or imperative) to closeout, with guidelines for how to manage the process of planning, execution and control along the way. Often these guidelines come with apparently useful tools like forms, templates, logs and checklists. All of which are, in their own way, helpful in some instances. Taken as a whole, however, they don’t make up the full set of tools, skills and abilities that a project manager needs to survive--and thrive--in the long term.

To compensate for this oversight, the following points are outlined as a (mostly) serious and (typically) well-considered guide to life skills for project managers. In developing it, I thought long and hard about what I have learned along the way that has made a meaningful difference in learning to manage projects effectively. Amazingly, most of these insights never got taught in school (project management or otherwise). Most of …

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"I never thought much of the courage of a lion-tamer. Inside the cage he is at least safe from people."

- George Bernard Shaw

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