The Accidental Project Manager Boom

Accidental project manager
8 Sep 2017

The Accidental Project Manager Boom

Nothing Accidental About Project Growth

According to the Project Management Institute’s (PMIs) Talent Gap Report it is projected that more than 15.7 million new Project Manager (PM) roles will be created globally by 2020 with an economic impact of more than US$18 trillion and spread across project-intensive industries such as Finance, IT, Utilities, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Construction, Oil and Gas (see PMI source).

The trend for growth in PM roles is no surprise in the context of a global market characterised by increasing levels of change, digitisation, disruption and population growth – which together equates to lots and lots of projects – though also impacted by local economic GDP forecasts in each region. With the volume of projects trending-up we can predict birth rates for accidental (and indeed aspirational) PM’s will also rise significantly across industry. Indeed the heritage of project management is the story of accidental project ownership where engineers, architects and builders from pre the 1950’s tacked project management into their fold without receiving specialised training in this discipline.

These days, project management concepts, methodologies, tools and techniques are both mature and prominent. However, the accidental beginnings of becoming a PM remains a common rite of passage. Like other accidental conceptions, these appointments can be a blessing and open up a new world of professional development and opportunity.

However, from an organisational perspective, inexperienced PM’s represent a risk and indeed a significant cost to companies. According to the PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2017, 14% of projects are considered outright failures; 31% of projects did not successfully meet the original goals and business intent; 49% experienced scope creep; 43% did not finish on-budget; and 49% did not finish on-time. Whilst the causes for these results are multi-fold and complex, resource experience and performance are highly correlated. Thus here enters the critical role of talent management and learning and development (perhaps together best identified as performance and capability in more modern terms) to proactively address the skill gap and provide necessary training to support up-and-coming ‘accidental’ project managers and drive continual improvement of project capability in general.

Top Tools and Tips for Supporting Accidental Project Managers

EP’s top tips for developing and supporting accidental project managers are:

  1. Implement a Project Manager Induction program – each organisation has its own way of doing things and sadly these resources all too often get lost in sea of process and deliverables. Designing a simple PM Induction program to bring your Junior PM’s up to speed and employing a ‘keep it simple’ mantra can be an invaluable way to integrate your team, support your staff, communicate the process (aka methodology and framework including templates) and improve project results
  2. Mandate Project Management Fundamentals training (at a minimum) – to give PM’s the basic knowledge they need to do the job effectively. According to the PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2017, three in five companies surveyed provide project management training and development.
  3. Utilise project simulations (aka team based games) as a ‘safe’ and highly engaging way to develop project management capability as the ultimate link between theory and practice
  4. Match PM skill level with project complexity and apply a scaled approach to project management. Put simply all projects are not created equal so apply the ‘right amount’ of project governance to reflect project complexity (aka ‘Goldilocks principle’)
  5. Ensure Project Sponsors have the mandate and skills to support and guide Junior PM’s
  6. Project Management Mentorships can provide a valuable mechanism for passing on expertise from Senior PM’s to Junior PMs (as can other formal knowledge transfer processes)
  7. Foster a culture of ‘pre-mortem’ project planning where diverse PMs from relevant similar projects come together to share learnings to initiate informed project planning (rather than learnings being collated in the Post Implementation Review, then filed and forgotten)
  8. Provide a PM e-learning library as a performance or operational support tool to provide relevant ‘last-minute’ ‘bite-sized’ ‘on-the-job’ information and guidance for PMs
  9. Establish a collaborative platform to facilitate internal discussions and foster a culture of project management professional development and excellence (and ideally linked to the operational resources from point 8 above)
  10. Develop an Organisational Capability Framework that defines core capabilities and associated  competencies including Project Management, identifies resources roles and responsibilities at different levels, learning and progression pathways – or in other words forge a defined career path for your Project Mangers.

There are many other great ways to develop the Project Managers of today and tomorrow. Make your Project Managers and not your project accidents great.

Elemental Projects specialises in project management professional development and can assist with training and qualifications, e-learning, video production, project simulations and more. To find out how we can support the professional development of yourself or your people, please contact