Good project managers are born with it and other PM myths

In my opinion, being a very good and very successful project manager takes many skills, a little luck, good connections, some training and the ability to wear a bunch of different hats on the same job. Along the way I’ve witnessed some beliefs and opinions about project management that I think fall more in the myth realm than reality and I’d like to address those here. Please be thinking about your own list and feel free to share your thoughts.

Good project managers are born.

Leaders may be born…and I realize birth order in the family can have a lot to do with it. But born project managers? I’m not to sure about that. Imagine the delivery room and this baby comes out and the joyful mother proclaims loudly, “I bet he’s going to be a great project manager!” Never gonna happen. Or in 6th grade little Arthur starts to map out all of his current and upcoming class work on a gantt chart. I don’t think so. The best project managers may have some key personality traits – I fully believe that to be true – but I don’t think anyone is born to be a project manager.

Project management is all reporting and organization.

Yes, reporting and being organized is a big part of being a project manager. Status reports drive customer focused meetings like the weekly formal status report and they contribute to bigger dog and pony shows on longer projects and government projects when big quarterly reviews are required. The project manager must also be very organized – staying on top of the project schedule, budget and resource plan throughout the project engagement to ensure that everything stays on track. However, it is not all about reporting and organization. It’s about leadership, confidence, decision-making, task delegation, risk planning and management, financial acumen to keep the budget on track, negotiation and conflict resolution. And probably 100 more things I didn’t just include, but can’t think of at the moment.

If you can delegate you can manage projects.

Being able to delegate is a skill. It isn’t just handing out the next task to whoever has room on their plate for it. It’s about understanding resource availability, knowing how soon your project resources may be scheduled on another project for a period of time, knowing which team member has the right skills to take on a particular task, and even when to assign particular tasks to the project customer to keep them engaged on the project. It requires an ability to see the project as a whole and at a very high level when necessary. Getting the right task assigned to the right individual is critical to the forward momentum of the project.

Anyone can run a decent meeting.

Anyone can call a meeting. Getting the attendees prepared and informed in advance, getting them in their seats at the meeting, keeping them engaged, and making sure that everyone leaves on the same page after the meeting…that takes good skills that you hone over time. The PM needs to send out an advance agenda that is detailed, but straightforward. You want everyone to see it and know what they need to come prepared to discuss and contribute. The PM needs to start on time and end on time to get the most out of this meeting and to gain the reputation of the good meeting facilitator who’s meetings you should always attend because they start and end on time and accomplish what they should. They will know you won’t always be wasting their time. And followup at the end and after the meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page – that’s critical.

You can always learn along the way.

“Fake it till you make it.” That may work on some things. And on some aspects of project management. But you can’t fake it as a project manager on the whole and hope to succeed. If you’re a first time PM, you likely need – and will be assigned…hopefully – a mentor. But you can’t “just wing it” – luck will not get you very far. You need the key skills – many of which I’ve already mentioned above – in order to really be a successful, effective and productive project manager.

Project management is project management no matter the industry or project content.

Sometimes and across certain industries this may be true. Not 100%, but maybe 80% – maybe enough to have technical project manager lead a real estate project…assuming they have the proper help for permits, etc…that’s the missing 20%. But it won’t translate to all industries and those missing 20%’s will need to be learned pretty quickly or failure is imminent.

Summary / call for input

This is my list of some top PM myths that come to mind. Do you agree? What’s on your list? What would you add that people seem to assume about project management that you know not to be true. Please share and discuss.

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Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has authored more than 4,000 expert project management, best practices and business strategy articles, eBooks and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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