Project Management

Planning Your PM Free Agency

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 after reading To Be a PM Free Agent, or Not to Be?, you think you want to be a free agent.

First, good for you. It can be an incredibly satisfying and enjoyable way to make a career, and a life. While there are risks and challenges, there can be an extraordinary amount of joy, wonder and delight involved as well. The experience of growing something that is truly yours, building it up and making it something you value and care about, can be rewarding.

It is important to acknowledge as well that it is both a career and a life. For all that we talk about and may aspire to some theoretically elusive state of “work/life balance,” when it is yours, it never fully switches off. That isn’t to say you have to work insane hours or have no life outside of what you do. You will still experience parties and dinners, quiet personal days and raucous family events, joyful celebrations and crushing departures. Real life still carries on. But thoughts of your work, new ideas and new possibilities will bubble up and emerge constantly. When you work for you, work might recede at times, but it never really goes away.

This sense of identity and ownership—the idea that the work owns you as much as you own the work—should be part of what you factor into your decision. You need to not just acknowledge or accept that reality; you need to thoroughly embrace it. …


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"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties."

- Francis Bacon

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