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11 de octubre de 2015

Why can't I be good as a Project Manager?

Why can’t I be good
Why can’t I act like a man
Why can’t I be good
And do what other men can
I'd like to look in the mirror
With a feeling of pride
Instead of seeing a reflection
Of failure a crime

After many years in the profession, I’ve met many people who claimed to be Project Managers, but actually they weren’t. Even worse, they didn’t have the attitude to become one. These people found their comfort zone (they didn’t recognize that, though) in deciding and executing every single technical detail, so proficient in their domain of expertise that no one could do their job, catch up their pace, deal with crisis, handle complaints, etc. When leading project teams, they did not delegate many technical tasks, as they tried to control team members’ work by controlling over the technical details, discussing on “how to do” more than on “what to do”.

What they had in hand, was it a project? We can say yes: There were goals, requirements, testing, milestones, a team, a schedule, a budget, etc. There was also a project code to allocate time and expense sheets.

However, in my humble opinion, these people did not manage projects: They did not manage their work according to a plan, they changed scope every day (provided that they had defined one!), they did not anticipate potential problems, and they were not proactive nor predictable. Let’s not call this project management, then. Let’s use a more appropriate name instead: Let’s say they managed operations, services, technical assistance, supporting, etc.

The reality check used to come when the big crisis exploded: The project was losing much money, it was seen as impossible to achieve goals, or what was delivered was “unacceptable, poor quality” according to the client, etc. Then the proposed solution used to be to replace that Project Manager with a new one. This caused harm for client, for the selling organization this Project Manager belonged to, not to mention the low morale of the dismissed Project Manager, who was totally identified with the project, for sure. If you are a Project Manager like him, if you are the project, if you take every criticism as personal, then when you are released as the Project Manager in charge, and another colleague takes over, how would you feel?

In projects there is much on stake. There are many stakeholders: people who win or lose because of the project. Chances are for project success, but chances also are for project big failure, sometimes impacting the company image or even the stock market’s share value. There is no other profession in the world more goal oriented than project management. Project Management is definitely not quite a rewarding profession: If goals are met, as they have to be, that is the reason you are in charge, then no one praise you. But if goals are not met, then the fault is only yours. While everything was doing okay, nobody said a thing, but now that everything is going bad, suddenly, everyone is talking about risk management, poor documentation, poor leadership, quality audits, communication problems, lack of social skills, convenience of coaching, etc. The result is always the same for the poor Project Manager: Everybody blames us and we don’t have good defense.

A distinctive point when comparing “technical success” to “Project Management success” is that the technical guys depend mostly on themselves, but the success of Project Managers depend much on external variables, most of them out of their control zone: team, client, sellers, resources, performing organization, luck…

If there are so many factors against us, if we are so badly judged, if we don’t deserve a second chance (we are replaced!) Why would anyone want to become a Project Manager?

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