Monday, October 6, 2008

Finding Satisfaction in Project Management

A person who has been managing projects for a number of years can tell you that this is a job with little public glory. We all move mountains each day to achieve and deliver on client expectations without even breaking a sweat, and yet still no parades or standing ovations. Project Management can often feel like a profession that attracts minimal acknowledgment, and over time, this can result in a sense of disappointment. In this entry, I want to address this peripheral issue and discuss my own point of view to inspire renewed commitment and pride in our profession.

Ironically, if a PM is successful in their job, few people will notice, because the net effect is a project with minimal issues and quiet, consistent progress. By nature, this means there IS nothing to notice - and in this case, that's a great thing. We work with our teams as though we're perfectly orchestrated ensembles. Over time, this success becomes the expectation, and attention is then only generated by more serious challenges and errors. It's been my experience that the projects attracting the most attention are those that result in some failure or discontent. These engagements will captivate any stakeholder and place the Project Manager under a microscope - likely not the positive attention we seek!

All this is not to suggest there isn't an unspoken appreciation from your production team as well as senior management and clients alike. Because our underlying mandate is to ensure success, however, when we achieve it, we have simply met our objectives. The result is that even our more complex feats can go unnoticed, so satisfaction must come from some place other than public acknowledgement.

This discussion brings us back to the kind of individual that is best suited to Project Management - in my opinion, an independent and fearless thinker. Someone who does not rely on others for constant approval or affirmation - someone who can feel a sense of pride and satisfaction from within. It is entirely possible to give yourself momentum through professional success. As Project Managers, we need to set key performance indicators for ourselves. A simple goal is to introduce continuous process improvement to your own work style, or perhaps to achieve a slightly higher margin of profit on each subsequent initiative. This approach is particularly important where a formal PM department does not exist. Goals will provide a benchmark of improvement and help maintain focus on professional betterment. I have also found a deeper satisfaction in mentoring and helping others optimize their performance - as you grow in your own role, share your learnings and insight as a means of reinforcing your own ability.

You can find tremendous satisfaction in this profession - positive feedback may not always come from external sources, but I believe you will be the best judge for your own performance. Recognize your success and strive for bigger and better as you move forward. Even if it's not obvious to you, people will take notice.


  1. "no parades or standing ovations" huh? I thought you were describing the life of a QA guy ;)

    People only notice us if something goes wrong!

  2. I beg to differ slightly on this. I think when we can quantify results and present it to the management, our work can never go unnoticed. I have tried six sigma practices to showcase time-saving, cost reduction etc and management appreciates when they can see numbers.