I will be the first to state that I very much like to work independently. And that is the beauty of project management. Much of what we do we do independently. I realize that all depends on the actual makeup of your organization and your project management infrastructure. But I can say from my experience…that most of the organizations I have worked in have given their project managers fairly free rein to succeed or fail. Yes, there has been structure, but in terms of the daily management of our projects, we have been able to engage customers, make decisions, and manage tasks on our own – always knowing we can reach out if necessary, of course. Sound ideal? It is. But it can also alienate some individuals and leave some project managers feeling a bit like an island rather than part of a group. It’s all about personal preference and your ability to manage your own time and thoughts and to make the big boy decisions when they need to be made (and to know when to make them as well).
But interaction is still a good thing
That said, it is still important to interact. While project managers are generally a fairly independent group. And, yes, we run multiple project simultaneously, we manage several project resources and a customer on each of those engagements, and we juggle many different critical tasks on each project that we manage. There’s really very little time left over to meet often with a supervisor. So getting lots of hands on direction is just something we’re not really built for. It’s understood – and usually preferred – that we ‘go it alone’ as much as possible. The expectation is that we will shout out when we need help, we will let our supervisor know when we’ve hit a roadblock and need someone to move it for us, and we will certainly alert others if there is a problem. But in general, interaction is still a good thing.
Why? You may not have a lot of time to gain direction from your supervisor or PMO Director. That’s just life. And probably it’s just how it is in your organization – people are stretched very thin. But it’s important to never stop reaching out to your management, to your executive team from time to time, and definitely to other project managers. It is important to periodically connect to other peers in your industry and line of work. You need these people to bounce ideas off of and gain knowledge from. Project management forums, social media sites, and independent PM related topical sites are all classic examples of areas where project managers and other project professionals can share ideas, learn from each other, ask questions, get answers, and share overall knowledge with the end goal of helping each through difficult times on the projects that we are leading.
Other ways we can reach out and network is through localized organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI). Through local PMI chapters we can meet with and network with our peer project managers and learn project management concepts and standard processes that are part of the PMI foundation in the process. PMI has more than 250 local chapters in more than 70 countries worldwide. With over 300,000 PMI members worldwide, you can see that there are enough like-minded project managers out there to network with.
To summarize, the point I’m trying to make is that project managers are a very independent group. I think the nature of a PM is what drives them to the profession (if they have a choice in the matter and they weren’t just thrust into it against their will). And if you’re like me, often managing projects remotely nearly 100% of the time, you aren’t getting a lot of interaction with other project professionals. It’s important that we look for ways to stay connected with each other – even if it’s just through forums, blogs, networking events, or the various social media outlets that we have at our disposal. And certainly use the weekly PMO meetings wisely to share ideas in your own organization if your infrastructure is such that it allows such an activity. Sharing knowledge of our successes and failures helps us to build our own lessons learned database to help us manage engagements more successfully in the future. And that sharing of knowledge and building of lessons learned is what makes ongoing success a possibility.