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The unrecognized project manager

/ Featured in Digital
Notebook and laptop

When a project comes together, the feeling of bliss followed by the release from stress is hard to beat. Team members congratulate each other on a job well done, and hopefully there is some excitement and praise from the client, too. With all the positive energy from closing the project, it’s easy to applaud others for their contributions.

“The design is amazing. You did such a good job showcasing their brand in your work!”

“The content is so much better than what they had. And it’s finally optimized!”

“We built some really cool features that will streamline the process. And so far, we haven’t had any major bugs pop up.”

All of these things are part of executing the project plan. They are the shiny objects that wow a client. But the one thing behind all of the planning, organizing and budgeting is the project manager. It’s easy to leave the project manager out of the final bits of praise; after all, what is shiny about project management?

As a project manager, I struggle with promoting the value of my work. I think too often, people assume project management is easy and not a huge investment of time. But what the world doesn’t realize is what it takes to be a good – scratch that – great project manager, and just how quickly a project can derail from a plan and budget before it even begins.

Undervaluing great project management

According to the Project Management Institute, organizations that undervalue project management see an average of 50% or more projects fail. With this rate, the importance of securing a great project manager for your company is imperative.

Sometimes it’s hard to notice great project management until something goes wrong. Managing risk is key to successful project management, and certainly something not all team members are watching out for. If risks lead to issues in scope, timeline or budget, the team can only continue on a successful journey if the project manager handles these things and directs the team on next steps and priorities.

In addition, working around constraints can be very difficult. Whether it’s timeline-related, task-related, tool-related…constraints are an obstacle.

Hand over the keys

I think project management is one of those things that sounds simple until you’re in the driver’s seat. The duties of a great PM hit a long laundry list, similar to long and drawn out job postings that are asking for a unicorn. Regardless of the type of project, a PM can be expected to:

  • Form a project plan
  • Write and produce project estimates and scopes of work (SOWs)
  • Develop a work breakdown structure (WBS)
  • Create a project timeline
  • Lead a cross-disciplinary team, promoting positivity and enthusiasm
  • Manage resources and concurrent project schedules
  • Control change
  • Manage risk
  • Develop project documentation
  • And more!

Project managers have to master many soft skills to be effective at their jobs as well, with communication being the most important (in my opinion). Fast, frequent and friendly. And while many people might consider themselves organized, it’s no match for the level that is required of a project manager. There is actually a shelf in my brain that is dedicated to organizing my projects.

Above all else, a great project manager must be agile and quick to catch any flying tennis ball. More and more companies are moving towards agile or an agile/hybrid approach, which means incremental and iterative change is welcome, and a project plan is just the base to get people moving.

Without a doubt, the success of a project should be applauded equally among team members. All should be responsible for the project going well (or going poorly). Behind all the deliverables of a project, project management is just one of those things that frequently goes unappreciated. But when you understand what is missed without a great PM, you never want to live without it on future projects.