Project Management

Really....I Couldn't Care Less...

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I Couldn’t Care Less…

…about planning

…about understanding specific requirements and success criteria

…about collaboration and cooperation

…about the integration of systems, processes, and data

…about learning new ways to improve my work

…about allowing changes to the project

…about communicating with others on a daily basis

…about teaching others ways to improve their work

…about success!


Too frequently I hear statements such as, “Managing projects is easy” or, “The PM can take the minutes. Isn’t that why they are here?”

These statements typically precede the speaker’s next statement, where they decide that one of their analysts, database administrators, field engineers, or assistants should be assigned as the project manager for their mission-critical project.

How do you overcome these types of stereotypes about project managers and as importantly, our chosen field of expertise?

There is never a silver bullet to overcome stereotypes, regardless of the target of the bias, but you can whittle away at it by patiently educating our leaders and staff about the value that project managers bring to the organization. This can be accomplished through several methods, including (but not limited to) following our own processes, demonstrating that you really do care (through our actions) about the elements listed at the start of this post, and by coaching the accidental project managers to improve their project outcomes.

Following Your Own Processes

It is critical that as the figurehead, spokesperson, or evangelist for project management within your organization that you actually follow the practices, processes, and workflows that you define for others. Whether you are the PMO or a staff project manager, you should always be considering what impact you and your actions will have on project management, as a discipline, at your organization.

It is difficult to “sell” the value you bring to the organization if you simply run projects using the same half-hazard techniques as those without training or experience. Following your processes should also improve project success rates, but if they do not then you need to review if your tools and processes are actually improving the project outcomes overall. If not, do not be stubborn about finding ways to improve upon them, even if the advice or suggestion is coming from those with less experience.

Demonstrate the Value of …

…appropriate planning

…understanding specific requirements and the project’s success criteria

…high levels of collaboration and cooperation

…integration of systems, processes, and data

…learning new ways to improve my work

…managing changes to the project

…communicating with others on a daily basis

…teaching others ways to improve their work, and

Of course, you must demonstrate how focusing on the above can improve the success of your projects. For example, even the executive sponsor will appreciate that any changes that they suggest must follow a defined change approval process when you show them the value this control will bring. Note that you must be careful that the change control process does not take more time than the change itself would have required to implement. This does not mean you skip the process in these cases, but it does mean that your process should be efficient, adaptable, and tailored to the type/size of change being requested. In all cases the change process must include an analysis of the impact the change will have on resources, scope/requirements, risk, schedules, budgets, and staffing, otherwise it will be no different from someone winging the change.

You must be sure that while proving value of the above elements that you are actually adding value by doing them. Frequently we apply a technique, follow a process, or fill out a form because it is part of our process. We need to be more adaptable if we are to survive as a profession, and improve our processes when they no longer can prove value.

Coaching the Accidental Project Manager

Frequently when we are told that a non-PM will be assigned as project manager we get a bit defensive. Our first response may be to walk away and hope that they fail, if for no other reason than to prove our value to the organization. However, a better approach may be to offer to coach and mentor that newly assigned non-PM so that they can be successful.

Aside from protecting the assets of the organization (part of your job!), you are earning the trust of that new non-PM and perhaps building another advocate for the value of project management. Even if the mentee does not become that advocate that you hope for, you are growing the profession by spreading knowledge. This will also help you grow as a professional, and help you determine where there is fat in the process as helping others follow a process they are not familiar with will invoke questions about the value of certain steps.

Come See Us at the 2017 PMI Global Congress

Have questions about a practice, technique, tool, or process that you want to ask?

Want to share a story or some great tips with us that you have learned?

Please come visit us at the upcoming Congress, where you can schedule 1:1 sessions with a variety of subject matter experts in a variety of areas of Project Management. You can schedule as many meetings as you wish with our Group of Nine! To see more information, please visit 

Although we recommend scheduling a time slot, you are also free to just drop by and chat! I look forward to meeting you!

You can find me in our booth during the following times:

Saturday, October 28: 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Sunday, October 29: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Sunday, October 29: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Monday, October 30: 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm





Posted by Dan Furlong on: September 15, 2017 09:49 AM | Permalink

Comments (14)

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Dan - great post and great advice. Especially liked " We need to be more adaptable if we are to survive as a profession, and improve our processes when they no longer can prove value."

Adaptability is the behaviour. Agility is the consequence (from my book on Organizational Agility).

All too often process is assumed to be from God - inviolable and treated as commandments. Without knowing the intended outcomes (for our projects or our processes) we can never know if we are doing the right things. They also allow us to make necessary adjustments when they aren't.

I'd go a step further and suggest that process ought to be the minimal necessary to achieve its desired outcome - so lean from the get-go.

See you Chicago!

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

I find so many novels glorify "heros" who bend the rules to achieve the desired result. It belittles those of us who "follow the process" and, as you say, bring value.

Larry, you are correct about process. We think it is sacrosanct and as such is about reproach. I have always tried to not only challenge defined processes and procedures, but encourage my staff to do the same of me.


I never really thought of that! We always do find ourselves cheering on Ironman, or Star Lord, or whoever because they win the day and totally ignoring the fact that they broke every rule to do so. In fact, I think I often cheer them more BECAUSE they took a risk and broke the rules.

Of course that is Hollywood. In real life we need to follow the process and if the process is broken, fix it!

Absolutely, Dan! I was thinking of all the novels where a PI, FBI agent or cop gets their suspect by using relationships to get information they would otherwise not be privy to. Again, you have to wonder about those who skirted the rules to share this data.

Great write-up, Dan. Walk the talk. Actions speak louder ... empower those around you to make rapid, educated decisions.

Interesting to read and think how easily cost mistakes are done within major companies for not empowering a trained PM to care for projects, independent of the size. Methodic follow-up of procedures still the best cost saving tool. Let's carry on and try to improve higher management to realize the need for a PM.

Hi Dan,
thank you very much for sharing these thoughts.
I was specially touched by the paragraph about coaching the accidental project manager. I have always thought and acted the way, that as a PMP it is my duty to coach people who are thrown into a project management position without having received proper training.
For me, project management is not only the knowledge of processes and procedures, but first and foremost a mindset.
Processes and procedures vary so much between companies and are more or less applied, but the mindset is what changes the game.

I agree completely with your article. But you do care! The important thing is that you don't let it define you. There a couple words throughout your article that I think define you and also why you are successful: 1) Trust, 2) Value, and 3) Professional. You get the important results of the project - output is only one aspect.

I remember Tom Peters had a slide when he presented at LIM in Phoenix. On Time, On Budget, Who Cares? Value is being part of a team that created something. He used the Chunnel as an example - of course it was over budget and over schedule - but those were really arbitrary forecasts. But when all is said and done - the people who worked on that project and point ot the end result and say: "I helped build that"!

Thanks for posting.

Dan, great article and I really love your ending points about supporting those accidental PMs, as it is definitely the way I started out, and I had my mix of those waiting for me to fail and those who lent a helping hand when it was needed.

But I need to lend a point to process, as I've had to deal with many that are overly cumbersome for the scale (and type!) of project which my teams dealt with.

I agree with following a process in so much as to achieve certain goals, but if the process is broken for the application, there needs to be flexibility in how the process is applied, and an ability to scale. Applying an overly cumbersome process to smaller scale projects, or to request documentation simply to show it's been submitted with the project file, particularly when it isn't applicable in any sense of the matter, just costs time, money and unnecessary effort. I've had many battles with the PMO to highlight issues of this type, with no traction for change or flexibility of this nature!

Karen, I agree 100%.

If the process is not adding value, regardless of the reason, then it needs to be evaluated and adjusted. I believe all processes should be tailored based on project complexity, as it just doesn't make sense to use a sledge hammer to install a tack!

Nothing worse than a hard headed "follow the process regardless" attitude as it will kill any success and support that you have earned thus far.

Be adaptable (and I know YOU are!).....

Hope I can attend virtually

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