Four Common Misconceptions of Project Management

When people ask about our Project Management process, it is easy to think that everyone is aligned on what Project Managers do.  In reality, this is not true. 

Here are a few examples of what many people think of Project Management:

  1. Project Management can only be done by someone with a PMP certification (Project Management Professional).
  2. The Project Manager role is both the decision maker and the “doer” who handles everything for a particular initiative.
  3. The Project Manager role is an administrator who schedules meetings and tracks actions for various team members all working on a particular initiative.
  4. Project Management will just “happen” even if there is no one specifically designated for the Project Manager role.

We beg to differ in any of these areas, though there are certain elements of truth to each one.

First, having a PMP is certainly a helpful certification for a Project Manager, though just like any certification, the proof is in the pudding.  One really needs to have the mindset of a Project Manager, and ideally some experience leading projects, to really be a great PM, and this can be true with or without the cert.

Second, the PM certainly can help with decision making and action completion, though truly their role is to facilitate everything and maintain accountability.  They are the ones who ask the uncomfortable questions around making decisions – especially if *not* making decisions is holding up progress.  They are also the ones following up on activities and learning why things are not getting done down to root cause and developing mitigation suggestions as well as escalating roadblocks to the right players that can help remove them.

To the third point of a PM being an administrator – certainly most PMs handle meeting scheduling and action item tracking, those are necessary aspects of a successful project. In larger projects with bigger companies there often is an additional “admin” role who takes on scheduling, and possibly even sends action follow up reminder emails/text channel notes.  True Project Management, however, proactively considers the full project picture, which is far more nuanced than calendaring and tracking.

The fourth point is truly the most common, unfortunately.  Leaders think that Project Management will just “happen” even without a designated Project Manager. 

Leaders think that Project Management will just “happen” even without a designated Project Manager.

We talked to an Executive the other day who said that most of the details for 75% of their initiatives aimed at developing capacity to manage their explosive growth, were “in the head” of their President.  The Executive asked us if they should consider a Project Manager to handle these projects? 

Our answer? Only if you want the projects to happen in a timely fashion.