Accidents Will Happen

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The professionalization of project management has long been established. More important, the value of project management skills has been widely accepted. Case in point: research consistently shows that PMPs enjoy higher salaries and ever-expanding opportunities in the fast-evolving digital economy.

Still, there remains a vast population of "accidental project managers" — individuals who were tapped on the shoulder one day and charged with managing a project along with the day job.

Lately, though, I hear as much about CAPMs (Certified Associate in Project Management) as APMs (accidental project managers), and that's a great development. New project managers have some very helpful resources and networks to tap into these days, starting right here on ProjectManagement.com.

But let's face it: many individuals cast in the role of unofficial or temporary project manager view it, quite reasonably, as an unwelcome burden at best and a lose-lose situation at worst. If that's how you feel, perhaps you're operating on the perimeter of your comfort zone, if not completely outside it.

Consider this though: maybe the job of project manager chose you. Maybe this new, scary responsibility is an opportunity, a tough but exciting challenge with potential long-term career rewards.

Hopefully, you were chosen to oversee a project for a reason, be it technical experience or familiarity with a similar effort. If your comfort zone happens to be rolling up your sleeves and "just doing it" — all else be damned — then no one can realistically expect you to become a master of motivating other people overnight. If, instead, you were tapped on the shoulder because you have an ability to inspire and work with people but don't know what P-M-B-O-K stands for, then you can't be asked to invent, much less implement, a new five-stage lifecycle to save the day.

And there are dozens of other mismatched skill-set scenarios that can intimidate or ambush even the most enthusiastic project managers.

Still, if you are in a situation where you've been asked to manage a project without so much as an introductory course on risk or a used copy of Project Management for Dummies, take comfort. There are thousands of project managers with advanced degrees and 20 years in the trenches who will tell you a little secret: they sometimes have to wing it, too.

And though seasoned project managers have had career-enhancing successes and been able to replicate them with strong practices and lessons learned, they also have suffered failures — failures that could be attributed to lack of support, unrealistic scope, or just plain bad luck. But they keep learning. And adapting. And growing.

Hey, accidents happen. Welcome to the profession.

Posted on: August 08, 2018 04:48 PM | Permalink

Comments (23)

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They certainly will. Embrace it!

Thanks, Aaron.

I have seen some accidents in my time. It's all good!

When resources are limited you need to tap staff with the potential to run a project.

Good article Aaron!

Accidents will teach you more than successes sometimes

We only grow and learn from mistakes :-)

Good post, Aaron. Thanks for sharing.

Accidents happend also to me, but according to a phrase in Germany:
Hey, princess, stand up, adjust your crown and go on...

I don't know that it really matters how you become a Project Manager what is important is having the motivation and tools to continually improve your skillset to delive better results each day. Cerfitifactions like PMP and the amazing ProjectManagement.com community are great resources to maintain that motivation and sharpen those skills.

Excellent article. Seems to describe how I started!

Good one, Project management teaches responsibility and accountability

Failure is inevitable, embrace it. Learning to fail fast fosters innovation, Great article.

This was a good read Aaron. Kind of article that could pass for a readers digest. Thank you for granting insight and exuding some inspiration.

Thank you! We have to embrace opportunities to grow! Great insights!

This is great Aaron. I think that developing project managers should embrace when accidents do happen, as they inevitably will. This will re-enforce lessons learned and professional development as a PM.

Accident is also when the good project comes to your desk (and the bad ones to your colleagues!!!!)

Thank you Aaron for good article.

Thanks for sharing.

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