The Grass is NOT Always Greener in Someone Else’s Yard


Over the years, I have seen several people aggressively campaign to become project managers in their companies, and most of the time it was for the wrong reasons. The problem is that an individual’s first impressions about project management are often misleading. People seem to be enamored by what they see initially and fail to fully understand what the position entails before accepting an assignment.

Here are several situations that illustrate this misconception.

Situation #1: Paul

Paul was an excellent engineer with superior writing skills. Paul saw that most project managers were working with the marketing and sales force preparing bids for potentially lucrative contracts. After weeks of campaigning, Paul was assigned as an assistant project manager on a large project. Paul learned quickly that writing skills were only a small part of the project manager’s job. After a short assignment in project management, Paul requested to return to his former position in engineering.

Situation #2: Richard

Richard was almost at the top of his pay grade with regard to salary. Although Richard knew he would receive an above average salary increase each year because of his performance, he wanted more. He believed that project management offered greater salary opportunities, so he became a project manager without fully realizing what skills are needed to be successful. Richard eventually returned to his previous position and was branded as a failure as a project manager.

Situation #3: Brenda

Brenda, like Richard, appeared to be motivated by the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Brenda was given the opportunity to serve as a project manager. It was a rude awakening when she realized how much work was involved and how little she knew about project management, but Brenda had a strong desire to excel at project management despite the circumstances. Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that Brenda would not succeed as a project manager. Even more, Brenda’s previous position had been filled as soon as she had moved to her new position. The protection she felt she had in her previous position was no longer there and Brenda was forced to leave the company.

Situation #4: Fred

Fred had worked as a team member on several projects. He believed that project managers were the “presidents” of the projects and made all of the important decisions, so he campaigned to become a project manager and eventually was provided with the opportunity. Fred viewed this as his chance for glory and wanted show everyone how good he was at project decision making. After accepting his new position, Fred quickly became disenchanted when he realized that most project managers have very little real or legal authority to make decisions. Although on the surface it appeared that project managers were making the decisions, Fred learned that the real authority rested with the project sponsor and the governance committee.

Situation #5: Carol

Carol was reasonably well experienced working on project teams. Unfortunately, Carol’s work assignments required that she spend more time working with various team members than with the project managers. While Carol thought that she understood project management, she actually had a poor understanding of what a project manager’s job was like on a daily basis. Despite this, Carol’s desire to become a project manager was granted. She learned very quickly about the pressure and stress that project managers are under and that an eight-hour work day as a project manager was nonexistent. When the pressure and stress began to affect Carol’s home life, she resigned as project manager.

Not everyone is qualified to function as a project manager regardless of their education, experience or desire. It is imperative that people understand the role of the project manager before accepting an assignment. Failing to understanding the role could have a serious impact on one’s health and one’s quality of life.

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