It Takes Gall to Be a Project Manager

Project management can be lonely for the project manager. They know all too well that the project team members and stakeholders may not understand how project management is supposed to work. Since project management deals in a world of uncertainty, things rarely go according to plan. There is almost always a risk of failure, be that spending that is too far over budget to justify continuing the project, adverse events in clinical trials that can threaten the viability of the label, or schedules that are unrealistic or incomplete.

That’s why the ideal project manager isn’t afraid to be a lone dissenter. No one likes bad news and the project manager must be its harbinger. It can be tempting to downplay or avoid delivering bad news. After all, the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger” wouldn’t exist if people in power didn’t feel naturally inclined to blame the messenger.

Everyone would rather spread good news, and the project manager is usually the first to know when it looks like the news will not be good. It takes courage to deliver the facts as they are. It also takes time to investigate alternatives and present options for mitigating the unpleasant effects of bad news.

Many organizations have a winning culture that drives an attitude that says failure is not an option. A winning culture is an important attribute of a profitable company, but not all projects can be winners. Project managers can‘t be afraid to point where things may go wrong and should expect that they will feel pretty lonely while going through this exercise.

Our white paper Leadership Is Taken, Not Given goes into much greater detail on how project leaders establish control of their projects in the face of organizational resistance.