Is Project Management a creative process?


Is Project Management a creative process?

Full disclosure: I believe it is.

I’ve had some colleagues vigorously take the opposing view.  Those holding this view came from many fields and disciplines – including a few working as project managers.

At first, I didn’t think too much about it.  I understood that what I did as a PM included much that might be considered uncreative drudgery AND included creating things at both trivial and significant levels.  So, it was probably just an issue of specific experience.

Now, I’m not so sure.  I find it impossible to think about managing projects without some creativity.  How can anyone deny that pm is a creative endeavor?  Is the disagreement about Creativity and/or Project Management?

Let’s take on creativity.  Perhaps some fields are more inherently creative than others.  We might look at artistic fields such as writing or painting as inherently creative.  Yet, one does not spend all the time creating – there is research, preparation, even planning.   Perhaps in some fields one spends a different percentage of time creating?  Is there a threshold above which a field is creative?

I can concede that there have been times as a PM where I wouldn’t consider what I was doing particularly creative.  Also, looking at some texts on PM, I can see little that seems particularly creative.  Instead, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on various charts and lines and some formulas.

Ahh… maybe that’s it.  The stuff in the texts are only covering a fraction of what many of us really do as PMs.  There are the “teachable” elements that are somewhat “cut and dried.” … and then there are things that are learned with time and experience, but are hard to quantify or put into an algorithm – what we might call judgment and wisdom.  Balancing conflicting needs of different stakeholders, for example.

I think we have an image problem here.  We’re just not widely perceived as doing creative things.  Certainly it can’t be that some PMs are doing project management uncreatively?  Hmmm… maybe I should be worried.





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