Project Management

How to Manage a Project...When You Aren't the Project Manager

Stephen currently works in commissioning projects in the oil and gas industry.

It's often said that a project manager’s responsibility often exceeds their authority. I want to take that a bit further to include people who find themselves managing a project and do not even have the “project manager” title.

In my present job, I often go to a project that is under construction or refurbishment. I am the technical representative for some of equipment used in the project. These are typically oil and gas plant construction projects. The customer—or rather “our customer,” who is usually a subcontractor—has bought some of our equipment and has installed (or is going to install) it as part of a major industrial process. My responsibility is nominally to get our product up and running to secure payment, but to do this I have to ensure that the equipment works in the plant.

I got started in this a few years ago when I was asked to do an assignment in Korea for an equipment manufacturer. I got to a shipyard and was directed to a Portakabin on the dock side where there were about 12 people sitting around a table. Someone said, “Here's the vendor now.” I sat down, and the chairman of the meeting said, “What are you going to do?” I said, “I've no idea. What are you expecting the outcome to be?”

PMI defines a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a …


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