The Truth about Project Management

I love project management. I must, if I'm willing to spend time outside of work figuring out how to get better at it. Increasingly, though, I feel I'm in the minority in my preference for project managing. Many of my colleagues view PM work as administrative, clerical, insufferably dull, or all of the above. Those that profess an interest in it early in their careers later tell me that--thanks, but no thanks--their preference is to be a data scientist or a developer.

I don’t know what I want to do, but I do know I want to run screaming from project management.
— Everyone and their mom

This post isn't intended to rail against anyone's career ambitions. I firmly believe that everyone should pursue their passion. If it's not PM, no need to pretend for my sake or anyone else's. But, frequent statements like these among my new staff got me thinking. Why does PM get such a bad rap?? I decided to stand up for my chosen profession and debunk some of the stereotypes about what it means to be a project manager. Here are some of my favorites, some of which people have actually said to me in meetings!

Myth #1: Project management is not technical work.

  • Project management is a technical skill, just like any other. You can pursue certifications and/or degrees specializing in project management, just as in any other field. True, much of the work can be learned on the job without an education in the subject. Yet, this is true for many other career paths. Project management is still associated with a technical body of work, knowledge of which enhances job performance.

Myth #2: Anyone can do project management.

  • Yes, anyone can do anything. Believe in your dreams. But, the implication here is a bit more sinister. Subtext: a trained monkey can be a project manager. I'd revise this one slightly: anyone can do project management, but not everyone can do it well. Managing a project team requires superior emotional intelligence and communication skills, and I'd argue that these so-called "soft" skills are hard to teach and also hard to detect. You can't read someone's resume and confirm they are a good communicator.

Myth #3: Project management is boring.

  • Working with people is never boring! If managing a project were boring, then all projects would finish on time and on budget with no issues. I'll admit that there are some aspects to the job that are not the most glamorous or exciting. Again, this is likely true for any job. Also, the future is bright.

Myth #4: Project managers don't actually do work. All they do is talk to people.

  • This comment stems from ignorance. Project managers spend a lot of their time talking to people, it's true. What is not always evident is that all this talking often prevents future issues. PMs talk to their clients to prevent confusion and avoid future work shortages for their teams. They prevent roadblocks by removing obstacles to their teams' success. PMs also need to talk to others to command a working knowledge of work products (from Excel functions to software protocols to graphic design). That way, they can lend a hand to get things done.

Myth #5: Project management is not important/necessary.

  • Maybe I'm too close to this to have an objective opinion, but as long as there are people involved, project managers will not cease to exist. Can you successfully deliver a project without a PM? Yes, of course. But I guarantee that the project was more expensive, time-consuming, or inefficient than it needed to be. PMs grease the wheels to improve productivity.

Let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree with these stereotypes!