What I Wish I Had Learned at PM 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.

So here's the thing. Like many (perhaps most) of you, I didn't set out in life to become a project manager. It was not on my horizon. I'm not sure what I specifically did want to be when I grew up (my stepfather wanted me to be an accountant, but he and I were most assuredly not aligned on that point). I don't recall any particular fixation as a small child. But I'm quite confidently assured that project management wasn't it.

This didn't stop me from falling into that career path, as one does. Quite early on, in my particular case. I developed a reputation as someone who "got things done." Which will, if you persist in being competent at such things, inevitably result in you being given more things that require getting done. Bigger things. More complex things. Awkward but important things.

As things grow in size, scale and complexity, you have to learn to grow with them. And that's where we usually run into our first problem: How do we learn any of this? Because most of us, if we're honest, don't. At least, formal education often isn't a fixture at the start. We may backstop our efforts with a course at some point, but usually we start figuring things out and work from there.

Take a course or pick up a book, though, and what typically gets emphasized is process. There are boxes and lines. Arrows and labels. We start…

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"Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it."

- Danny Kaye

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