I never wanted to be a project manager. At various times in my life, I have wanted to be an astronaut, a physicist, a programmer, a telecoms engineer, a telecoms manager, a product manager, a management consultant and a teacher. But never a project manager.
Like many in our profession, I am an accidental project manager. I just sort of stumbled into it unintentionally, only realising that I had become one when others started attaching the PM title to me.
Why, then, did I drift in this direction? What is it about project management that others recognised in me? (And I’m far from unique here; I think this is very much a shared experience.)
I like driving. I enjoy the act of planning and executing a route, and adapting as needed depending on traffic conditions. The discipline also appeals to me: driving is a skill that can be learnt, and developed. It helps to have a destination in mind, but even that isn’t essential; I’m happiest of all when driving round and round in circles on a track day. There is “best practice”, but there are also differing views on driving technique. On track, I enjoy trying different lines to find out what works best for me.
The analogy with project management should be obvious. There are those of us that enjoy the journey, and managing the journey, in and of itself. Having a clear destination is great – but what really matters to the project manager is finding the best way to get there. There are opportunities to try out new approaches, and to optimise the journey. Project management is a road movie. And having arrived safely (hopefully), project managers are immediately looking forward to the next trip. The journey is the important part: making things happen.
So that is what project management means to me. Project management is about making things happen, and project managers are people that like to make things happen.
Once I accepted the mantle of “project manager”, the next step was to look for best practice, start to try out alternatives, and accumulate the bits that seem to work for me. I have being doing this for around 10 years now, and the distillation has been The Seven Essentials, which you can read about on this blog. Very little of The Seven Essentials is truly original, of course. It is mostly borrowed (some would say stolen) from the best practice of colleagues, consultants and experts that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years, as well as some input from Prince2, PMI PMBOK and other recognised standards.
The fun part is that project management best practice can never be complete. There are always new challenges, new approaches, new tools and technologies. So I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. Every project has its “what can I learn from this?” moments.
That is why I am excited about participating in #pmFlashBlog. It has been a challenge to write this article. As a “sermon”, it is perhaps more personal and soul-searching than my usual style. More than anything, though, I’m looking forward to read all the other contributions, which surely will provide new and thought-provoking themes to explore in the pursuit of project management excellence.
This article is my contribution to the #pmFlashBlog event, in which over 70 (and counting) PM bloggers will publish simultaneously at 01:00 GMT on 25 September 2013, on the same topic: “What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon”