I Couldn’t Care Less…
…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
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 …
…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 https://www.pmi.org/global-conference/career-series
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