Project Management

Debunking 3 Project Management Myths

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By Yasmina Khelifi, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, PMP

Our profession faces some consistent myths. During my career, I’ve came across three that I’d like to debunk:

1. Project management is administrative.
When I first applied for a project manager position many years ago, I talked to a PM and he told me: “It’s an administrative role.”

Despite this, I applied and was accepted—and I turned the “administration” into valuable delivery. The administrative part was not created by the project management role, but by the organization around project management in an effort to follow the budget and check the quality of the project; each person wanted a Word document to be filled to check if the project was on the right track.

Documentation is needed on a project…but what level of documentation? And what level of detail?

If someone tells you project management is administration, answer with this:

  • “The level and details of documentation required is defined by the organizational culture in some companies; we must evaluate the aim of the documentation.”
  • “I’m an advocate of always seeking out improvements in documentation.”
  • “As a project team, we will define the level and detail of documentation for onboarding newcomers and for handover.”

2. Project management is repetitive.
In another role, a colleague told me: “Aren’t you going to be bored? Once you deliver this project, all the other ones will be the same.”

But he was wrong, because each project is unique. Of course, in this particular role, there were some commonalities—but the requirements were different, and the people I worked with were diverse. Plus, I could refine the processes and improve the way I worked with practice and experience. I could also train newcomers to the team. So, I didn’t get bored at all.

For some people, project management is not innovative or creative, because they think there are activities or roles with higher status. But project management is creative in that we need to create a path, aggregate knowledge, practice, use tools—and also use intuition. Now with globalization and the hybrid workplace, we are at the forefront of innovation.

If someone tells you project management is repetitive, respond with this:

  • “Each project is unique given its context, requirements and teams.”
  • “Just because the external flow of actions looks the same, that does not mean the path to resolution will be the same. We need to set new norms and rituals. We need to explore the causes of problems.”
  • “In each project, we make retrospectives or lessons learned. These are great moments of collaboration and creativity.”

3. Project Management is about processes.
Project management uses processes to organize the work and define a plan. In some domains, processes are more prevalent than in others, and for good reason: If security issues are involved, processes have to be followed.

But more than processes, project management is about people and how to work together as a team—of knowing how your behavior is going to impact others.

If someone tells you project management is about processes, answer with this:

  • “Processes are used to organize; when you facilitate the work, project management is not used for the sake of processes.”
  • “Processes are not carved into stone; change them if they don’t work.”
  • “The backbone of the project is teamwork.”

As a community and as practitioners, we need to be role models and change the image of project management—which some people like to keep negative narratives about. Don't let others' perceptions diminish the impact you're making on the world.

What other PM myths have you faced? Share your comments below

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: December 14, 2021 11:22 AM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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Dear Yasmina
Very interesting theme that brought to our reflection and debate
Thank you for sharing and for what you think are some myths
For me, what matters is how people work (processes) to achieve the project's objectives (delivery of value)
Some documentation is important, especially related to what people have learned and, above all, how they will work after the retrospective(s) (standardization of processes and/or ways of working)

Really great post, Yasmina. The responses that you created are well thought out and cut through the narratives and stereotyping often shared by people who don't really understand the scope of Project Management.

Hi Nancy, thank you so much for your feedback. Happy holidays!

Hi Luis, thank you so much as always for your feedback!

Hi Freddy, thank you so much for your feedback!

A very thoughtful and brief write-up. Thanks.

Thank you Ganiyu fir your feedback!

Good insights!

Thank you Roshanda

I really love this piece
As a Project Manager you need to understand the environment in which you find yourself and look out for ways to improve on them
Project Management is dynamic for those who ready for it
Thanks for the article

Insightful read. Especially "Don't let others' perceptions diminish the impact you're making on the world." Couldn't say it better myself.

Hi Yasmina, thank you for these insights. When I first approached the profession I must confess that I shared many of these preconceptions. Now, after years of work in the trenches, I have to say that I agree with you.

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