Why Project Management?

WhyOne question I get at least once a week is, “Why are you so involved in project management? You’re not a project manager!”

For some reason, people think of project management as a discrete occupation. You have a software upgrade? You need a new oil drilling platform? Call a project manager! Project management is seen as simply a method of organizing a pre-defined project.

For me, the reason I stay involved is simple. You know how the first time you heard a Mozart opera or the White Stripes, the first time you saw that painting by Renoir or Andy Warhol? Sometimes stuff just feels right.

Project management has always just felt right.

I’m a Virgo, so I’m supposed to be organized, but I’m not. AT ALL. How am I supposed to be organized when life isn’t organized? Life always comes crashing in, in a chaotic and ridiculous manner. The only way I can keep myself sane is by setting up mechanisms to bring order out of that chaos. When I discovered project management, I knew I’d found my path to success.

I regularly talk to corporate executives who are overwhelmed, whose shareholders are asking them to do things they have no idea how to do. A few of them have accidentally picked up some project management fundamentals along the way, but most of them haven’t. They never learned exactly how to break a problem into its components, and determine a path to overcome it, bit by bit. This is the reason so many of them are great at defining organizational strategy, but not so good at executing it — they lack fundamental project management skills!

When I was in high school, I took a couple years of chemistry. When I became a freshman in college, I was amused to discover that all the experiments in chemistry were really familiar. It turned out that my college chemistry lab professor used the exact same lab book as my high school lab teacher had. Every time we started an experiment, I remembered the process and the result we were going for, so executed the labs flawlessly, three times faster than anyone else in the class, and spent the rest of the time helping others complete the labs. My lab professor thought I was brilliant, the greatest chemistry student he’d ever seen, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth.

Project management is like that. It’s the class you’ve already taken, the one that tells you how to solve a problem you’ve never seen before. How have you used project management where it wasn’t “assigned,” and it’s really worked for you?

Jennifer Tharp blogs at http://www.tharpo.com.



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