In the world of project management, it is not uncommon to encounter individuals who stumbled into the role accidentally, with no formal training or certifications. Surprisingly, these accidental project managers often manage to deliver projects with remarkable success, outperforming some formally trained counterparts.
Have you ever wondered why this phenomenon occurs? Could it be that the traditional approach to project management, heavily fixated on methodologies, frameworks, tools, and processes, is not always the key to success?
We must recognise that not all accidental project managers are naturally skilled or inclined towards this role. Some may have stumbled into it purely by chance, without any prior knowledge of project management. For them, the journey might be more challenging, and they may face a steeper learning curve. Yet, the fact that they still manage to deliver excellent results prompts us to investigate further.
Let’s explore the intriguing world of accidental project managers and uncover the valuable insights we can learn from their experiences.
Practice over theory
What are the underlying characteristics and strategies that these accidental project managers employ to achieve their success? One noteworthy aspect is their practical, hands-on approach to problem-solving. Rather than getting lost in theoretical concepts, they tend to prioritise real-world application and adaptability. Their ability to be agile and respond to dynamic project conditions allows them to make quick decisions and steer the project towards success.
At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive that individuals without formal project management training could excel in this complex field. However, a deeper examination of their methods reveals a fundamental shift in focus that sets them apart from the rest. Rather than getting entangled in intricate project management techniques, accidental project managers prioritise understanding the ultimate objective of their projects: delivering value to the customer. This customer-centric approach becomes their guiding principle, steering them towards success.
Subject matter expertise
One possible explanation for the proficiency of accidental project managers lies in their subject matter expertise. Often, they come from a background closely related to the project’s domain, allowing them to grasp the intricacies of the problem faster and more effectively. This understanding of the subject matter enables them to identify the critical factors and devise innovative solutions, which can be instrumental in achieving project success.
This brings us to question the traditional notion that only certified project managers possess the necessary skills to excel in their roles. While formal training undoubtedly equips individuals with valuable tools and knowledge, it might not be the sole determinant of success. Accidental project managers remind us that genuine passion, domain knowledge, and a relentless drive to deliver value can play a significant role in project success, regardless of the lack of official credentials.
Natural stakeholder management skills
Moreover, accidental project managers often rely on their innate leadership and communication skills. They might not be trained in formal project management communication techniques, but they possess a natural ability to build strong relationships with team members, stakeholders, and clients. This interpersonal finesse fosters collaboration, enhances team morale, and facilitates a shared vision, all of which are crucial elements in project success.
Formal project management training’s place
While accidental project managers seem to possess a unique set of skills and qualities, it is crucial not to dismiss the significance of formal project management training altogether. In fact, there is immense value in combining the best of both worlds: the customer-centric focus and practical approach of accidental project managers with the well-established methodologies and techniques taught in certification courses.
Application to real work
Organisations can create a hybrid approach to project management, where they encourage and support individuals with domain expertise to take on project management roles while providing them with supplementary training and mentoring to enhance their skills. This approach leverages the strengths of both accidental and certified project managers, ultimately leading to more successful project deliveries.
The lessons we learn from accidental project managers remind us that project management is not solely about following rigid processes but about understanding the essence of each project and adapting accordingly. It teaches us that passion, domain expertise, leadership, and effective communication are crucial elements that can elevate project outcomes.
In conclusion, the world of project management is a multifaceted realm, where accidental project managers thrive, surprising us with their exceptional performance. Their ability to prioritise value delivery and focus on customer satisfaction sets them apart from traditional project managers fixated on methodologies and certifications. By acknowledging the valuable insights they offer, we can redefine the way we approach project management.
As we move forward in the dynamic landscape of project management, let us embrace the diverse approaches and continuously seek opportunities to learn from those who have succeeded against all odds. After all, the essence of project management lies in delivering value to the customer, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving that goal. So, whether you’re an accidental project manager, a certified professional, or someone aspiring to enter this domain, remember that each journey is unique, and success comes to those who focus on delivering value above all else.
Watch this short video of our recent cohort of ‘Project Management Novices in this live-action PM101 Workshop’.
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