Project Management

To Be a PM Free Agent, or Not to Be?

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

That is a question with implications.

Project management is a high-stakes, high-stress job. It involves a lot of uncertainty. That uncertainty comes with the territory; part and parcel of managing projects is navigating the reality that they are unique. You are heading into terra incognita. This is often part of the fun and excitement of being a project manager, because you never live the same day twice. It is also the inherent difficulty of being a project manager, because, well…you never live the same day twice.

Not everything about your projects is going to go perfectly or even well. While that is a statement of reality and in no way implies judgement (you will certainly get none from me), the challenges and failures can hit hard. You can and will be frustrated by them. There can be instances where you feel held back by them. You might not be getting assigned to the kind of projects that you aspire to. Worse, because of the projects that you have done before, you may find yourself boxed into a niche of being the person that manages “those sorts of projects.”

All of those experiences can be discouraging and tempt you to consider alternative avenues.

One of those alternatives, of course, is leaving the corporate realm entirely. Becoming a free agent can feel tremendously appealing, particularly from the outside looking in. The appeal of being …

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