Accidental Project Manager Part 1

Accidental Project Manager Series
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

I was attending a dinner at the Northern California Airman’s Club where Eileen Colleens, commander of the a US space shuttle flight was speaking. Before she spoke, three college students received scholarships. They as a group were already quite impressive in their achievements.  One students’ comment continued to play through my mind; he stated that he knew in 3rd grade that he wanted to fly.

Think about that

  • How many of you knew what you wanted to be when you were in 3rd grade?
  • How many of you knew that you wanted to be a project managers in 3rd grade?

Many of us stumbled into our promotions, including becoming a project manager: we are accidental project managers.

Wise people say that we do not live long enough to learn everything from our own experiences. We should learn from others and their career falls.  And so I’m starting a series on: The Accidental Project Manager: Lessons Learned.Accidental Project Manager

Why Do companies Let Us Become Project Managers?
Companies look for people who understand and can manage a couple of things:
Complex Products: The product development (NPI) process is very complex; impacting almost all groups from development to sales, from finance to support.
Complex business processes: The cradle-to-grave processes for even mid-size companies are becoming increasingly regulated in the US and touch multiple continents abroad.
(and we need to do it in an) Shorted time horizon: The global environment makes Fast-Time-To-Market (FTTM) a competitive necessity.

Therefore, any one who has cross-functional can immediately make an impact. So organizations need project managers and are looking in their Qualified Pool. To reduce risk, enterprises stay in-house and promote:

  • Engineers and developers to Project Managers
  • Business analysts to Project Managers
  • Business Subject matter experts to Project Managers

Why Is That a Problem?
So some facts about the state of project management in most organizations:  Interthink Consulting completed an Organizational Project Management Baseline Study.  They say:

  • 69% of organizations have no formal organizational definition of project management roles and responsibilities.
  • 62% of project resources are allocated to projects on a part-time or informal basis.
  • 65% of project managers have little or no formal training in project management.

Accidental project managers’ are increasing common in the workplace with most of us professing at some point to a lack of qualifications or training in the area, having found ourselves in the job of managing a project without any experience. It is not surprising that according to the Chaos Study published by the Gartner group that most projects rarely meet time and cost targets.

Post a comment and let us know how your organizations promotes people into project management positions.

Tomorrow we will talk about why project managers want to be project managers.

Rosemary Hossenlopp, MBA PMP © 2008 All Rights Reserved


2 thoughts on “Accidental Project Manager Part 1”

  1. User Avatar

    Yeah, well, there are still a lot of organizations that promote ‘technically’ superior performers to ‘leadership’ positions. The management still believes that they will make good leaders too. AND/OR they have the technical background, making them more ‘qualified’.
    I beleive the 60% numbers Rosemary quotes in part 2. We have a long way to go before ‘most’ organizations make leadership decisions at the PM level that put leadership skills first.
    Jim Sloane

  2. User Avatar

    This is an excellent point Rosemary. I think it is actually advisable to promote people from within who have shown competency in the business and industry. Unfortunately many companies stop there (many I have worked for do)

    We need to provide training and mentoring programs for project managers if a company wants to defy the trends unveiled by the Chaos study.

    Cornelius Fitchner asks his in his interviews on the PM Podcast: “What’s more important, industry expertise or project management expertise?”

    Both! And if a company wants results through projects, they need to invest in their people so they have both.

    Josh Nankivel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top