TR PM Unconferences: Project Management is a Funny Thing

In the continuing series of posts here leading up to the TR PM Unconferences in London and New York in September, here is a thought provoking piece on Project Management by Mark Simpson (  Mark led the charge in extending the TR PM Community in 2011. He formed and led the core team.

Over to Mark:


Drop the term Project Management into a conversation and it conjures a diverse range of reactions from people, but the most common reaction is a very definite glazing over of the eyes. If you are at a social occasion, the individual you have managed to zombify just by uttering the arcane words “Project Management” like a Harry Potter spell, may then snap out of their trance by noticing someone else they need to talk to and making a bee-line for them. Or is that just me…

Even if the reaction I encounter is specific to me and my engaging personality, I would suggest there are widespread assumptions about Project Management that affect how Project Managers and the discipline itself are regarded. Some examples:

  • Project Management is all about bureaucracy.
  • Project Management is the enemy of innovation.
  • Project Management and responsiveness are mutually exclusive.
  • Project Management is an unnecessary overhead that adds no value.
  • Project Managers are here to do my admin for me.
  • Project Managers are clipboard-wielding drones closely related to accountants.

Harsh, certainly. But fair? Certainly not, and endless books, articles and blog entries have been and will be written expounding the value of Project Management and forensically tackling these assumptions and others. But who reads them? I strongly suspect only Project Managers read them, or those closely involved with Project Management, and so this torrent of persuasion is largely preaching to the choir.

The reality is that there is much that needs to be done to raise the profile of Project Management and build an appreciation of its value outside of the Project Management community itself. I would suggest a dual perspective here – firstly, it is of course vital to drive recognition of the Project Management profession in the wider world. Many, perhaps most, members of our community see themselves as professional Project Managers and so the support and development of their careers is inextricably dependent on how their profession is seen and appreciated at Thomson Reuters and in the world at large.

But there are those of us who don’t see ourselves as professional Project Managers. Personally, I see myself as someone who has acquired  Project Management skills and experience over a varied career that includes other fields and disciplines as well. For me, my Project Management skill set is a vital part of my professional armoury and one I could not do without, but it does not define me in professional terms. I think there are many people like me, and the truth is there should be many more because this discipline is rich in skills, principles and tools that are critical to success.

I say the great challenge of our Project Management community, and the real indicator of its success, is how we draw in “non-Project Managers”, and how by engaging them we both dispel the myths that hold back our profession, but also spread the tools of the trade that anyone can learn to use in their work and thereby help to drive success for the whole business. This is where the value of the community space on The Hub [our Jive implementation in TR] is really starting to show its potential – by encouraging Hub users to search our content for answers, and by welcoming those who consult our community members for advice and help. We have already formed a habit of launching top trending discussions on The Hub, and I suspect we have one of the most vibrant communities on the platform. If we can capitalise on this not just to support each other, but to support everyone at TR who needs our help and advice, then we will reap the dividends in our professional lives in the long run as well.


Thanks to Mark for this,  he will be with us for the London event on Sep 11th.

We are both fans of Project Management. Among many other things, we share the view that while it can be a job, it also represents a set skills essential in many other roles.  We are open to those who need the skill and those who aspire, as well as to those who already carry the job title.

Mixing things up a little will likely lead to us learning and enjoying ourselves a lot more as unexpected things tend to happen when you do.  As just one example, when I kicked this little series off I expected to have to write it all myself. This is the second post written by someone who expressed a desire to do so.  There are 2-3 others brewing which I am delighted about. That they are mostly from people new to blogging is something I am even more delighted about. Feel free to join in by contacting me on Twitter through @allinsona or simply chipping in with the #trpm12 tag.

This is probably the last post before the London event this week.  We will add to the series again after the event and then again around the New York event on Sep 27th.

In the mean time, we would love to know what you think.


3 thoughts on “TR PM Unconferences: Project Management is a Funny Thing

  1. I never wanted to be a project manager. Did any of us? In fact, I didn’t even realise I had become one until someone else attached the label to me – I found out that I was, apparently, “one of the best project managers in this company”. But that couldn’t be true because I’m rubbish at MS Project.

    Only much later did I find out about the true skills that make successful project managers, and fortunately MS Project is a long way down the list. So now I’m more comfortable accepting that title, and I look forward to meeting others tomorrow who have similarly stumbled into this profession.

    I’d really like to meet someone whose ambition – from an early age – was to become a project manager!

    • Russell

      Thanks for contributing. I got a note from Mark thus morning after I “encouraged” him to write this. He quite enjoyed writing it.

      That the event is open externally as well as internally to PMs and those who aspire is really important to us.

      I am sure you will meet some kindred spirits.

      I look forward to meeting you tomorrow. I will be wearing an embarassing t-shirt, at least one size too small…


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