By definition, project management is “the discipline of using established principles, procedures and policies to manage a project from conception through completion”. Project Management is a unique field that tends to fall onto people’s laps versus them choosing the job for themselves. It’s something that you grow into and sometimes happens out of necessity. When asking our PM’s about what they would compare their position to, they all had different analogies.
The answers we received were an obstacle course, a quarterback, an orchestra conductor, and a miracle worker. All are very different answers but they have the same underlying themes of being a leader, being organized, thinking out of the box, and sometimes fixing or solving issues that look impossible.
I think once you look beyond the literal meaning of this (an install being a physical obstacle course), it is easy to relate the tasks of this job to an obstacle course. First thing you do in an obstacle course is you look at the whole picture and then you break it down so you can tackle one aspect of the course at a time. The same thing is with an office. You look at the entire project and then you go through all the individual tasks pertaining to the project.
If you are playing football, you look to the quarterback to make the decision. If you are installing furniture, you turn to the project manager to call the shots. They are the playmaker and coordinator – if you are moving or doing something, it’s because they told you to do it or set it up for you which makes them one of the most valuable players involved in the process. Without them, that throw can’t be made.
One of our PMs compared their field to being a conductor of an orchestra because “a PM needs to make sure everything is accounted for; everyone is playing the correct instrument, in order for the music to sound beautifully”. This analogy makes sense when you look at a project as a whole – there are so many moving parts and people involved that in order to make a beautiful song, you all need to be in sync and on the same page.
Sometimes all you need is a miracle! This analogy was probably given to me as a joke but if you think about it, it does ring true. Occasionally this position requires making something out of nothing or fixing something that is not able to be fixed. Although they may not admit it, PMs tend to perform some furniture miracles in my opinion.
When taking a deeper look at some of the skills, or greatest strengths, a PM needs and has, there were many of the same answers provided to us:
- Product knowledge
- Industry experience
- Expect the unexpected
All of these are important for any job but especially for the person who is calling the shots!