University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee School of Continuing Education
Project Management Monthly: April 2013: Tips and Tricks
You Can’t Phone It In!

The most consistent lesson that I have learned in Project Management is that “You can’t phone it in. If you want to carry the title, you have to do both the project management and project work. You’ll note that I didn’t say that you had to like the work but you have to do the work.”

When you are assigned as a project manager, you become the lynch pin for stakeholders that have a specific end-game in mind. They may not articulate their goal, vision, or product exactly the way you need but it is up to you and your team to figure it out. For many project managers, a project starts as a great challenge with great potential. Then, a second project is added, then a third, then another and another. Project management moves from a passion to a job. When that happens, it becomes difficult to remember that the role of a project manager is to protect the team instead of filling the days with endless meetings and conference calls. It doesn’t help when the project manager is also an active team member. It leads to conflicting roles. The project management role becomes less important over time and project management deliverables are relegated to the back burner. Which is more important, the project work or the project management work? The short answer is “they are both important.”

When you accept your role as a project manager, it doesn’t matter what type of project it is, you become accountable for ensuring that the basic principles of project management are applied in a proactive and consistent manner. Failing to apply these principles will negatively impact the relationship between the project team and the stakeholders. I have often heard the mantra “the project is too small for a schedule.” The message being sent to your team members and other project stakeholders is that a schedule is only required when the project is big enough, important enough, costs enough or is visible enough. There are other excuses but these are the heavy hitters.

I have learned, sometimes painfully, that project management is doing the work that needs to be done to ensure that your team can be successful under the most unpredictable of circumstances. There are processes that work better than others but we must be able to sustain the vital four: scope of work, schedule, results, and leadership.

The bottom line is: No one will give you permission to be a project manager; you own it or you don’t. The choice is yours. You can’t phone it in; you have to do the work. It is how we add value to our team, our stakeholders, and the organization.


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