The more I think and learn about project management the more I realize I had it all wrong in my early days of beating my head against the wall to get my projects completed within the triple constraints. Being an accidental project manager with no formal training and also being from an engineering background pointed me in exactly the wrong direction for getting things done through other people. I always was a “hands on” guy who loved to find solutions to technical problems. My viewpoint was that the project team was there to help me get the project done. I would never have guessed that I, as the project manager, was there to help the team get the project done. I finally figured out that this twisted mindset was one reason I was so exhausted on every project.
Today, it’s now clear that project management should be focused on enabling, guiding and directing people who do the actual work of the project. Our job as project managers is not to tinker with the deliverables but to make it possible for the project team to do their job and produce the results. The primary directive is to establish motivation, create commitment and unleash innovation. This is a tall order for anyone and especially for a “hands-on” engineering nerd who wants to do everything his way.
Many project managers really don’t understand their roles of a relationship manager, motivator and facilitator. This is the soft stuff that is really the difficult but essential part of project management. It’s something that is very indefinable in technical terms and deals with the unpredictability of human emotions and interactions.
Is it really project management? No, I think it is more accurately described as relationship management that enables and empowers the interactions of people to produce value. It’s about managing context rather than content. With this project management mindset, I believe there would be many more successful projects and contented project managers.