The Project Management Manifesto, Epilogue

Look closely and you might find the answers

If you’ve not read Part I and Part II of the Manifesto, I highly recommend you do so, because here at the end after figuring out what a project manager (PM) really does, how to be Good, we come to the real existential stuff, and you’ll want to know how we got here.

No matter if you’re a Good PM, a bad one, or otherwise hopeless (all of which are distinct possibilities after reading the rest of my Manifesto, to be fair)— why do it at all? It’d be nice to think that all of this matters, these projects we work on, buildings we build. Most people want their job, what they spend half of their life on, to matter. But in reality, being a PM doesn’t. Getting that next project completed on time and under budget means bugger all in the grand scheme of the world. Some who work on building hospitals or dog shelters or whatever may try and argue differently. Others would say that their projects are improving the community, or building neighbourhoods. Still others would point to the enviable tangibility of it all, how, unlike many other professions, at the end of most projects we can point to something big and (hopefully) beautiful that has changed the landscape forever. They are all telling themselves tales. Maybe that works for them, like it would for someone who gets up every Sunday morning and goes to church. But to me, adding a new wing on to the local hospital to increase the capacity of the waiting room has no more value than Woolies cutting the price of milk. Your beautiful building will only be there until someone decides to tear it down to build something bigger and more beautiful. Most projects are in one way or another about money, plain and simple, and to scratch someone’s itch for something bigger, fancier, or newer.

So why should a PM care? How can I justify spending all my time on this stuff when it’s just fluff? It goes back to the last point of what it is that we do — working with people. The property industry is massive in scale when you consider the number of people involved, and every day you interact with other PMs, the construction team, consultants, clients, random stakeholders, and a wide variety of effected or interested parties. Unfortunately it often happens that PMs adopt this ‘us against them’ mentality because it’s easy, because it makes them feel like the boss. Being PM equals being the chief, and the rest of the team better fall in line. The ‘project’ becomes justification for disrespecting others, belittling those who are struggling, treating people in ways that one normally wouldn’t during the course of real life. This kind of attitude is missing the point, and missing an opportunity. The overarching motivation of a PM should be to, yes, manage successful projects, but also to do so in a manner that is a positive experience for the rest of the team. Being a PM may mean next to nothing at the end of the day in terms of what we’re delivering, but that’s not to say it cannot have an positive impact on those you are working with. Take into account the good days and the bad; that the guy who didn’t get his report done on time may have had a puking kid that kept him up all night; that there’s more to that person in the suit sitting across the table from you than their next deliverable, and that a few thank yous, some courtesy and a bit of empathy go a long way. As a PM you have the opportunity to have an impact far beyond saving your next client a couple bucks: You have the power to make someone’s working day suck less, and I’d say that is pretty fulfilling and as noble as you could ask for.

Here ends the Project Management Manifesto! Now go forth, and be successful.