Unit 9: Managing Project Teams

"In the absence of good project management, the only thing a detailed plan will do is document your failures with great precision" - Anon

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It is quite common to hear people refer to themselves as an accidental project manager.

These are more often than not folk who have strong technical knowledge of a process – for example: tradespeople, engineers, programmers or scientists – who are thrust into managing projects without any additional training.

In other words, a large number of project managers have excellent product knowledge, but little more than an intuitive grasp of what the specific skills required to lead projects might be.

It is also very common for project managers to not only have to manage a project, but work in 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 in this situation, 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 really happens is that the big picture gets lost. Therefore, the larger or 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!