Spare-Time Successful

It's International Project Management Day, and over the years I've celebrated this anniversary in different ways. One year, I declared project management dead. Another year, I announced the creation of a CCI, Certified Complete Idiot, designation. Mostly a little (or a lot) of whining. Or Why-ning.

This year, though, I'm reflecting on just how much progress the pre-mature profession of project management has managed to make. Today, more projects are managed by non-professional 'project managers' than are managed by professional ones. And I am grateful for this humbling fact.

Week before last, I found myself before a room filled with very smart people, many of them tenured professors; certainly smarter than I will ever be. And I heard myself repeating a line I'd heard myself say at least a hundred times. "How many of you aspire to become a project manager?" (No hands went up.) "Okay, so you're in a workshop intended to improve your project management skills, but none of you aspire to become a project manager?" (Lots of enthusiastic nods.) "Oh, you don't want to become a project manager, you just have to manage projects as a part of your real profession?" (Long collective sigh.)

When I first started working as a 'project management' consultant in Silicon Valley, I quickly learned that most of my clients were in this same boat. Consequently, I found much of the PMI professional PM stuff frankly irrelevant to this context, for these people were time-splicers. Their role as PM usually started with an invitation to 'lead that effort in your spare time.' This, when their calendars were already filled with the demands of their real, full-time profession.

To become successful time-sharers, then, became the primary challenge. To somehow carve success out of absurdly thin little attentive moments, and to design projects fairly well capable of managing themselves.

This never was much of a science, differed for each 'practitioner,' and little could be reduced to mere technique. Most discovered that it mattered a lot who they are, not who they'd cleverly crafted themselves to become, but who they always were. Their presence seems to matter. Their ability to manage themselves more critical to project success than any ethereal notion of how to manage others or how to manage those elusive critters known as projects.

So I take my hat off today to the under-appreciated majority of project managers, those who manage to become successful in their spare time. May this anniversary remind you of who and what you really are, and the huge difference you are making in your spare time.

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