When you grandmother asks you "What do you do?", how do you
describe the profession of project management? I offer some
viewpoints for you to consider. Stay with me here and read
through to the end to get my point. You can tell your grandma
that project management is like ...
1. Grandma, I am the person who gets things done. My clients
have desires and dreams and I help them estimate the cost
and feasibility. Then I drive the project until it becomes a
reality. Without me, big things would not get done. Think of
the Golden Gate bridge - it would not exist without a
project manager having gotten things done.
2. Grandma, I am in the business of problem prevention. I
use my tools to look into the future, identify problems and
then work to make sure that these problems don't
happen. Think of the fire marshal - he/she takes steps to
prevent fires and minimize the impact if they do occur. I am
the fire marshal for projects.
3. Grandma, I am a success agent. Clients commission me to
be their agent and represent them to achieve success in a
certain project. Just like a real estate agent represents a
buyer to successfully buy a home, I represent my project
sponsor to use my skills and tools to create a successful
4. Grandma, I am a time traveler. With my project plan, I
look into the future and predict problems that need to be
solved. I also live in the present and talk to my project
team and stakeholders to understand their problems and
successes. I also live in the past because I track status of
work that has already been accomplished.
5. Grandma, I am a professional babysitter for adults. I get
paid to ask people "How far are you? Are you done yet? When
will you give me the report that you promised last week?"
6. Finally, Grandma, my job is to lead teams to success and
stand up for the team when somebody says or does something
that impedes progress. I am a leader for the project.
Grandma, as you can see, a project manager needs many skills
to fulfill all of these responsibilities. These are in
addition to learning the basic skills such as GANTT charts
and PERT diagrams. Grandma, you set a good example of an
excellent project manager when you raised seven children
during the depression. When I manage constraints on projects
I remember your stories of how you fed the family during
regulated food rationing. Most important is to remember that
most of my profession revolves around people skills and I
learned great people skills from family gatherings around
your Thanksgiving dinner table.
My point of these comparisons is that project management is
a multi-faceted profession. Don't limit your professional
development to the curriculum you learned in project
management school. You can improve facets of your
professional skills by comparing your work
to other professions, then learning from fire marshals,
leaders and babysitters.