What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon

What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon


This post is published as part of a first ever project management related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Seventy four (74!) bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now (literally NOW) available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is found here so please go and check them out!

 

As each of us grow up, somebody, somewhere along the line gives us that age old and most wise advice. It comes in many variations, but the message is always the same. Pursue the work you love, and it will never be work at all. Don’t waste your precious years on earth in a job you hate, marking time and going through the motions. Find your life’s work. Like most advice, it’s easy to say but hard to do.

I’m a project manager. It’s my life’s work.

It’s a noble vocation, one that requires a unique set of skills and qualifications. My devotion to the principles of project management have afforded me experiences and opportunities that only those in this exclusive club of professionals could understand.

I manage projects.

“Project: A temporary group activity designed to produce a unique product, service or result” (PMI)

I deliver things like complex software solutions and large scale community infrastructure. Exciting stuff like high-rise apartment blocks, alternative energy experiments, space shuttles, movie sets, bus timetables, school fetes, house moves and fish shop openings.

Seems like everyone’s a project manager.

I’m different though. I speak to subject-matter-experts and sometimes they know what they’re talking about. I make plans and sometimes they come true. I forecast budgets and sometimes the money doesn’t run out. Sometimes I make work breakdown structures, sometimes network charts. I level resources and I monitor the critical path. Critically. I estimate, evaluate and escalate and I keep it all in a browser based, pay-as-you-go SaaS that is password protected, behind a firewall, replicated offsite and backed up hourly. That or MS Project. Sometimes I just write it all down on index cards and post-it notes that I stick on the wall.

Seems like my life’s work is a bit hit and miss.

I’m all about getting it done, but rarely do I do any of it. My time is precious and expensive but I produce…..well nothing. Ok, that’s not quite true. I produce a lot of charts and plans, diagrams and calendar entries. Heaps of calendar entries.

Sometimes it feels a bit of a battle. My life’s work.

And yet, I seem to be useful. At times anyway. When it’s chaos all around and it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, people look to me for the timber. The things I hold comfort them, give them something to anchor upon. Even if we know that the plans we’re looking at can’t work. We’ve got a place to start. Something to talk about.

Boy do I talk a lot.

If I am doing my life’s work well, I’ve noticed that I see people talking. I see the plans and drawings I’ve made starting conversations. I see people who know they need to talk to. They’re talking on the phone and in the tea room, sitting down and standing up, Skyping and Hanging Out. They’re talking about the joiny bits between their respective working lives and if they wander too far from that, I find that I can help bring them back and they like that. If I’m doing my life’s work well that is.

It means a lot to me, talking. I think it means everything to me. Not the talking itself, but the people doing the talking. I think it’s what project management means to me.

They didn’t teach me that in my PM training. That projects are people and that’s where the gold is. Maybe Oscar Wilde was right in saying that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. I’ve learned a lot from projects and the people I’ve had the privilege of meeting along the way, but I still know next to nothing. This could take a lifetime!

Luckily I’m a project manager, and it’s my life’s work. 

12 Comments

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  1. 1
    Chris O'Halloran

    Adrian, this is an interesting article and while I understand where you are coming from, to me though being the dumbest person in the room and communicating with stakeholders effectively is the holy grail of project management. To me this is not “nothing” but EVERYTHING.

    A great post and I enjoyed reading it.

  2. 3
    Shim Marom

    Adrian, thanks for taking part in the #pmFlashBlog initiative.

    As I am going through all submissions I am looking for observations worth noting and keeping in my ‘take-away’ basket.

    My take from your post is summed up in your finishing paragraph:

    “They didn’t teach me that in my PM training. That projects are people and that’s where the gold is. Maybe Oscar Wilde was right in saying that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. I’ve learned a lot from projects and the people I’ve had the privilege of meeting along the way, but I still know next to nothing. This could take a lifetime!

    Luckily I’m a project manager, and it’s my life’s work.”

    While some PM’s miss out on the point of human interaction as a key component of PM work, you clearly got it right.

    Cheers, Shim.

  3. 6
    Toby Elwin

    Enjoyed how naturally this read. I appreciate all the flexible tools that you may or may not use and rely, really on the “sometimes” point in time you might need to use.

    Great feeling to be part of the global PM community to meet folks like we met on the #pmFlashBlog.

    Thank you again.

  4. 8
    Francis Hooke

    Love you dry sense of humour Adrian! :)
    “people look to me for the timber” stood out for me. As project manager I think it’s your job to provide that centralised vision of how the project is going to work. Spot on.
    All the best,
    Francis

  5. 12
    Anya

    Very honest post, straight from the heart, thanks for sharing Adrian.
    Having collaborative project team, one that shares and has productive conversations is one of the first priorities of every project manager that wants to succeed. And you are right, that is not written in any book as rule or prerequisite.
    People management and exchange of opinions is not “nothing”, that is everything. Short-sighted managers tend to underestimate the value of people, but only till they are gone. Project Manager often is the key person to let valuable information to surface and “connect the dots”.
    You are doing a great job Adrian!

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