Project Management

Quick Tip: Stop Calling Yourself a Project Manager

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"I wish I had me when I was you..." That expresses precisely how I feel each time a project manager or PMO leader tells me a story about their frustrations encountered while trying to create effective and sustainable change, build (or fix) a PMO, or deliver projects successfully. I always think to myself…I wish I knew then what I know now. I’ve made it my mission to share with you everything that I have learned while creating change and building PMOs in both large and small organizations for the last 24 years, many of those years as an employee in the "hot seat" responsible for building internal capability. I’m hoping these articles help you along your journey as you continue to evolve and develop skills and techniques to be the high-IMPACT leader you are meant to be. Learn more at

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For too long now, we’ve been calling ourselves project managers, prescribing to the belief system that our project success is defined by how well we manage the triple constraint. We and the success of our projects are often determined by measuring whether we meet the scope, within the prescribed budget, and on time.

Well guess what? We’ve been missing a HUGE piece of the puzzle.

By calling ourselves by the title of Project Manager, we might be subconsciously minimizing the IMPACT we are making to the organization or, even worse, shortchanging how we are seen by others in the organization.

“But wait, isn’t project management supposed to be my title? I fought long and hard for that title and my associated certification(s)!”

I hear ya! Just hang in with me here!

First, let’s talk about what many people think when they hear Project Management: Tools, Process, Methodology, Systems, Templates, etc. Sound about right to you?

Yes, those are important value added (if done right) services and resources that you bring to the table as a PM. Do you know what’s missing from that? Any talk about the IMPACT you are creating.

We need to broaden our thinking about the role we play and start spending more time thinking about, planning for, and ensuring that the IMPACT we create via the project work we do is paramount.  In fact, I feel so strongly that this shift in our thinking is crucial that I suggest project managers adopt the title of Investment Manager instead of Project Manager.

Why? It’s simple! Follow along here:

  • Your project will take time, money, resources, and energy to get accomplished.
  • Someone had to make a business case (hopefully!!) that this time, money, resources, and energy was worth getting spent to get to the outcome they are expecting to achieve.
  • Someone (sponsor, business unit, C-suite, etc.) will have to agree that this work will lead to those outcomes and write a check (allocate resources, etc.) for that work to happen.
  • OK, then that project gets turned over to you. You are now the project manager. They ALSO put the responsibility in your hands of ensuring that the investment is money well spent.
  • You, the manager of that investment then has to guard that investment and ensure that the return on investment (ROI) is achieved.

Sounds to me like you are the manager of that investment and have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization to achieve the expected return.

If you achieve the triple constraint goals beautifully, but ROI isn’t achieved, do you think the investor will be happy? Would you be happy if this project was invested with dollars from your pocket? Nah, probably not. You may have had “fun” along the way, but as the investment manager, you failed to deliver the return expected for that investment, therefore you fell short of the true goals of the project.

Now, I’m sure you are wondering, “Do I really need to stop calling myself a Project Manager?” Of course, not. What I’m getting at here is that you need to think bigger about how important your role and the function you play really is (can be) to your organization. The bigger goals you set for yourself (or conversely, by not letting yourself get stuck in the status quo), the more you will accomplish. The more we truly understand and appreciate this, the more we can transform the mindset of ourselves and others to the real value of project management.

The role of project management in organizations varies by how well everyone understands the value and IMPACT project management is or can be making. Your job (today and to protect the jobs of the future) is to ensure that you and everyone else understand just how valuable the role of project manager really is to the success of the firm.

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Posted on: March 26, 2018 08:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Seems the role of the PM just keeps extending :-)

Laura is this extension to the previous post

Thanks, Laura. IIRC, you posted this on LI with varying feedback. Personally, I tend to agree with you (I generally do). We (as Project Managers) are not doing ourselves justice by limiting our vision of our responsibilities within an organization.

Good one, Laura and thanks for sharing.

Nice article and agree it getting the goal completed successfully that matters the most and not the how

Hyper PM with so many hats
Good one Laura, thanks

Thanks all for reading and your comments!

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