Climbing the Curve
Becoming a project manager
Project Managers are made, not born. This is the story of the making of a project manager. It is a fictitious construct used to illustrate the elements of effective project execution. The focus is primarily upon the aspects of project control, as distinct from the more encompassing exercise of management. Project control is a special role that must be fully developed and played to produce an effective project. For purposes of definition, project control is a technical function, it deals with the measurable, the quantifiable; whereas project management is more qualitative, relying on the ‘soft skills’ of social interaction. Project control deals with the discrete elements of time and money – cost, scheduling, estimating, and risk assessment. Project management must concern itself with the more amorphous elements of human nature – motivation, leadership, negotiation, and utilization. While it will be impossible to ignore the human element in a presentation of project control, the primary purpose will be to portray and delineate the various aspects of project control. I am assuming that the reader is either a prospective project manager or in charge of prospective project managers and most often from the owner’s side of the construction fence. While the environment that we will find ourselves in will be process – chemical and petro-chemical – construction, the elements are applicable to any capital project. My experience suggests that today’s and certainly tomorrow’s project manager will come from disciplines that have not adequately prepared him or her for the role of project manager. This role is easy to understand, but difficult to do. It is not ‘rocket science’, but is not intuitive either. It can be learned. Try to imagine that you are our hero, John Elliott, and that what is happening to him will happen to you. Learn from his mistakes and misfortunes. If you can, it will be far less painful than to have to undergo the blood and bruises of actual experience. Of course, there is no way to uncover all the traps and snares of project management. The field is too diverse and the inhabitants wear many masks. If this fable can keep you out of trouble for at least a day and save you some measure of pain, it will be worth it to you and to me. We will follow John Elliott as he undertakes a new project. We will accompany him on his journey of discovery and development. This is the story of a project manager and his first project.