On Project Management And Subject Expertise

Day in and day out I work on projects. Managing them properly is crucial. For us, it’s about customer satisfaction. For me, it’s about my reputation and because it’s just the right thing. Why do something poorly when it can be good?

Considering how many are involved in projects on a daily basis, it is surprising how utterly poor we are at managing them. Two reasons I believe are that we don’t place enough of a value in project management, and that we constantly fail to understand someone else’s point of view.

Project management needs behavioral insight

Let me explain. Far too often I see someone being appointed into a project management role as a sort of junior general-purpose role. It is short-changing the value of the profession.

A true project manager understands people. She faces differing expectations from different stakeholders. She has the difficult task of coming as close as possible to please everyone. A task requiring behavioral insight.

Real project managers know their subject too

Then there is the matter of subject expertise. A project manager needs to understand the subject. Period. Yet far too often I see project managers that don’t understand the area which her colleagues are working in. And worse, doesn’t care to learn it.

By far, this is the most dangerous. It’s damaging to both projects as a whole, and to workplace morale. When the project manager, the facilitator and supposed helper cannot genuinely understand, weight and negotiate the requirements, expectations and realities of a project, it is doomed to fail before it started.

It’s time the role of project managers get valued greater. In far too many organizations, surrounding employees think of the project manager as a nuisance rather than a facilitator and asset. If we don’t change this, the outlook and success of our projects are far darker than they need to be.