Self Assessment: Is Project Management Right for Me?

Is project management right for me? Excellent question! Often times, people happily working within a functional role, such as engineering, come to work one day and find that management has decided they will now be a project manager. Or often, professionals catch the project management “bug” and begin to pursue it as a profession after serving as a member of a project team. Maybe you are just starting out in your career and are considering starting down a project management career track from the get-go. If one of these scenarios describes you, we are here to help.

Being a project manager isn’t for everyone, but is it right for you?
A great place to start if you are exploring a project management role, is understanding the differences between project management success versus functional expertise success. How you lead a team of direct reports within a function differs from how you lead a cross-functional team that does not report to you as a project manager. Take a minute to understand the differences in how you:

  • make decisions
  • approach the project
  • apply your knowledge

Check out the differences outlined in the table below:

Functional Expertise Success

  • Make key decisions within area of expertise
  • Maintain focused attention on deliverables for the individual function (and is often supervising direct reports)
  • Ensure team is focused on the key deliverables
  • Develop an in-depth knowledge of work to be done
  • Represent function to senior management
  • Improve functional output and quality over time (continuous improvement)

Success as Project Manager

  • Lead team of cross-functional experts (often with strong egos and functional agendas)
  • Lead through influence, no direct reports
  • Depend on individual experts for each function
  • Focus team on overall project outcome
  • Help team members see beyond their individual contributions
  • Focus on project structure and cross-functional alignment
  • Confidently move between details and the big picture
  • See relationships between functional deliverables and show the team how these relationships affect launch
  • Represent cross-functional team to senior management
  • Deliver the right outcomes for the business and the customer

Source: Poof You’re a Project Manager and Other Delusions of Grandeur!

Given the differences between functional expertise and project management, different sets of skills and dispositions are required of project managers. Some of the most outstanding functional experts, struggle and are deeply unhappy within project management roles. However, others are wildly successful project managers.