Tightrope Walking: Balancing Pressures as a Professional Services PM

Rob Saxon is a Project Management Professional, Certified Information Systems Auditor and a trained Six Sigma Specialist. Rob is currently developing methods to integrate project management into previously unexplored areas of business.

In 2013, Nik Wallenda walked on a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. The rope he crept across was only a few inches wide, and it was suspended several hundred feet in the air. Nik held a long pole in his hands for balance, and he took one measured step after another until he successfully reached the other side. As I watched his achievement unfolding, my hands and feet were sweating, and I found myself holding my breath.

To Nik, I imagine this was another day at the office. To me, it was literally a death defying feat. Unlike walking on solid ground, each step Nik took, each inch he progressed on the wire was the result of enormous concentration and preparation.

If managing projects in other organizations is like walking, being in the role of a professional services project manager is a lot like tightrope walking over the Grand Canyon. The margin for error is small, there are a lot of people watching, and mastery of the craft is important. Finally, the need to balance is tantamount to success.

I love working for organizations where I have the opportunity to partner directly with customers. Though PMs who are not directly responsible for external customers still have customer responsibility, the benefits of being a customer-facing PM are many. There is a great satisfaction in being directly responsible for revenue for a company. It’s a thrilling feeling to …


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