A few days ago, I overheard another project manager say: “project management is easy – it’s just common sense.”
I cringed a bit when I heard this. Is that all it is? Really? I’ve thought about this over a couple of days and came to a simple conclusion – everything in life can be considered common sense. However, my argument that project management was not just common sense didn’t come together until this past weekend.
I participated in a photography class (one of my crazy passions) and was mesmerized by how easy it looks. It seemed to be just be a natural thing, but I soon learned it wasn’t in reality.
I have a lot of the knowledge in my head and an eye for design, but in real life photo shoots I struggled to react quickly and at times missed some really good shots. To me, it was not second nature.
As I approached the photo shoots (with live models), I struggled with what to do. Initially, I thought: “it’s common sense, just point and shoot.” But, in reality, I didn’t think about the type of shots I wanted to take, how to react to lighting, and how to connect to the models. I realized very quickly that while I could do a few things – composition, think on my feet and adjust my settings – my lack of planning and experience made the simplest task of taking a good picture a huge task and one outside of my comfort zone.
Guess what? Photography is not easy, no matter how effortless the pros make it look. Even the simplest picture takes planning and more than just common sense.
So back to project management.Project Management, like anything else that is not second nature, is not just common sense. I think that if you don’t have a natural inclination towards this profession, it will be more difficult to be an effective project manager.
Even if you do have an inclination toward the profession, until you’ve had enough experience with many situations, the overall task of project management can not be second nature. Even after it becomes easier, it would be dangerous to call it common sense and such a label diminishes the role of a project manager and potentially impacts the way we work with teams.
Project Managers are supposed to drive the team. They pull from their experience and leverage their insights and knowledge to handle familiar and unfamiliar situations to move the project forward. Managing resources is an art form and a learned skill.
No matter how much you get along with people, there is always someone you can’t figure out and must lean on your own experience and training to help deal with it. Even after multiple certifications and years in the field, I don’t think I will call project management common sense. I do have a passion for what I do, which makes my job enjoyable – but never easy.