This Much I Know Is True

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I don’t have a classic project management background, so I spend a lot of time thinking about ways non-traditional project managers can offer up great ideas to people with more traditional backgrounds. 

Sometimes I find that easy. 

Sometimes I find that rather difficult.

I also spend a great deal of time trying to push people past conventional wisdom. 

Again, sometimes that is easy, but most of the time it is incredibly difficult. 

This got me thinking about what I wanted to talk to you about this month: While the truth remains the same, the interpretation of the truth can change. 

What does that mean to project managers? A lot, actually. 

Here are a couple of the things we have always felt were true and how they can be interpreted differently. 

1. Project management is about implementation. As my 8-year-old son might say, “True! True!”

The reality is that project management is about implementation of a project plan with a desired outcome in mind. 

Yet, as we have seen general business matters change, we have also seen that project managers aren’t just involved in implementation — they’re also involved in strategy. 

How is this possible?

Because we don’t just do things, we also have to be in touch with the skills and desires of the organization and our teams. 

This means we do need to implement. But as much as we implement things, we also have to have business acumen that will allow us to offer up ideas, be confident in our ability to think strategically and drive our team toward the results. 

Like improv comedy, a project manager is all about the “yes, and…” 

2. A project manager’s most important skill is communication.

Communication is likely the most important skill for anyone today. But, for project managers, it’s not simply about communication, but communication that enables people to set priorities and take action.. 

Let me explain. 

Poor communication has stopped more projects from being effective than any other thing in project history. 

But good communication alone won’t fix every issue. Sometimes communication isn’t the real issue — instead it’s about also doing the right things. 

That’s why we need great communication in service of doing the right things and getting things done. Communication is key, but communication without commitment to the right things is the real issue. 

The idea that communication and implementation are super important is still true, but why they are true is up for debate. 

What do you think? 

BTW, if you like this blog, why don't you get my Sunday newsletter. There I focus on business acumen, value, and leadership...along with under ideas. If you'd like to get it, drop me a line at with "newsletter" in the subject line. 

Posted by David Wakeman on: June 25, 2018 12:46 PM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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David great post. My opinion is that PMs need to have the ability to create clarity and purpose out of disorder and incoherence. We create a safe space for our team to thrive and grow and we connect the team to the best outcomes for the enterprise

Yes, Communication and implementation are both very important. Thanks for sharing.

Nice piece. I am the non traditional project manager! In my experience, I find there is a bias toward projects that result in "products" whereas "service" or "result" oriented projects receive lesser credibility.

I agree with you Teresa. I think that's because a "product" is tangible and the success or failure of the product is easily identified. Whereas "service" or "results" oriented projects have more intangible success identifiers. Thus making easier to "see" how successful project management is in "product" projects.

tanks for sharing. communication is really a key in PM

Thanks for sharing David

Well said David, Communication plays a vital role for the PM.

Q1.�When you became a Project Manager, did you ever think you would need to become a better listener than talker, encourager than fault-finder, and have more to say to lower-level staff than�"Step aside, I'll show you how its done?"((

Q2.�When did you first realize that it was fear of having others saying you were wrong that formed your habit of not drilling down out loud on unclear issues at project startup workshops?((

Q3. �When did you first learn that 'communication' included not speaking, but �proactive engagement and encouragement while listening to others, e.g.,�"That's an interesting point, tell me more."(("OK, OK, OK, but�where's the�proof this is an issue?"

((I estimate the CoF (Cost of Fear) to not engaging your people and others within the first 5 to 7% of a project's startup (at the very latest) this way:((Your organization budgets around 15 to 30% profit on a new project going in, and when it is, in fact, wrapped up, if you earn 5%, you celebrate.((

Q4.�Where did that 10 to 25% of the profit go, and for what?((

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