It is quite common to hear people refer to themselves as accidental project managers.
Often, these are folk with strong technical knowledge of a process – for example, tradespeople, engineers, programmers, or scientists – who are thrust into managing projects without additional training.
In other words, many project managers have excellent product knowledge but little more than an intuitive grasp of the specific skills required to lead projects.
It is also very common for project managers to not only have to manage a project but work on the project as well. If not carefully balanced, this can lead to significant problems.
One trap that has caught many a project manager is where there is time pressure on the schedule. Understandably, the project manager might opt to be more hands-on, rolling up the sleeves and helping out in the trenches.
This is especially true of ‘accidental’ project managers appointed for their technical or specialist expertise. Naturally – but unfortunately – they gravitate to their comfort zone, fiddling with widgets instead of coordinating the project activities.
Although some might see this as ‘leading by example,’ what happens is that the big picture gets lost. Therefore, the more complex a project is, the greater the need for more deliberate and focused management.
Remember, if a team could manage itself, there would be no need for a project manager in the first place!
In this unit, we look at how to organize, develop, and manage your project teams.