By Vicki Wrona, PMP

Project Management is both operational and strategic. It uses both analytical and interpersonal skills. It includes leadership and negotiations. Why do we want to limit its definition…and our worth as project managers?!

All too often I run into senior managers who believe that project management is strictly an operational function. They need a project done and someone gets it done… that’s how they see it. But as good as that is, if used properly, project management can be much more than that.

When used by senior management or in a project management office (PMO), it can be strategic as well. The project management office or similar function can help determine which projects will be funded and how they will be prioritized and worked. In other words, with solid portfolio management practices, they determine the mix of projects that best support the organization’s mission. This is not an operational function but instead a very strategic one.

In today’s economy, this function is vital. All organizations have more ideas or wants than they have time, money or resources to accomplish them, and this function helps an organization not stretch itself too thin, only funding those ideas (a.k.a projects) which can be accomplished successfully. After all, delivering five projects at 100% complete is better than not delivering eight projects that are 70% complete.

The other misunderstanding I run into is thinking that project management only incorporates the analytical aspect of our work. People think of project management as developing the schedules, reports, Gantt charts, tracking work done and explaining variances. In my view they miss the most important part! That involves the creativity, leadership, management and negotiation skills to define and get the work accomplished through others.

It is the right-brain interpersonal skills that allow a project manager to get this done through people who typically don’t report to them. This will often get a person and a project further ahead than the analytical, left-brain skills. Granted, a balance of both is required, but it is often the interpersonal skills that make the difference between consistently delivering successful projects with a team intact vs. delivering more sporadically or with a demoralized or broken team.

Limiting our definition of project management to the operational, analytical skillset only limits our value in the marketplace and eventually, our worth to employers and clients. A good project manager is more than that! I am constantly amazed by people who tell me that they are not interested in project management training but instead in leadership training. Let’s work together to spread the word that leadership is a subset of good project management.

I also find it frustrating when senior management only sees project management for its operational benefit. Part of that perception may be our own fault but let’s all work to change that. Educate your stakeholders on the value and benefit of project management beyond the day-to-day tasks. Let’s expand the perception in the marketplace. This will not only help our profession but also, and more importantly to many right now, all of us personally, as it increases the demand and value of our knowledge and service in the marketplace.

Will you join me in this effort?

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