Project Management A Case of Common Sense? Not

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.

No Responses to “Project Management A Case of Common Sense? Not”

  1. Common sense is an embodiment of experience and lessons learned. So, for someone who is strong in any field, common sense is the sum of those lessons learned.

    When starting out, everything is about learning the new skill. When more experienced, it’s more about ensuring that you continue to learn and hone your skills. Common sense occurs when you’ve forgotten more about your job than most people know…

    And, projects get done through the work of people and every person on every team on every project is different. No common sense there. One has to work to create the team and have their work effectively meet the project goals. No matter how much experience you have, that one is always a challenge during a project.

    Good article, not just for project management. Now, about that DSLR I’ve been using…

  2. Assuming the person who made that comment is a capable, if not excellent, project manager it might in fact be “easy”. The truth is that I find some things to be “easy” that others do not; usually because I’ve done that thing often enough that it’s now “easy”. I know the opposite to be true as well.

  3. Charles Wood

    I think all would agree that Project Management requires common sense. More importantly I think project managing requires an aptitude and strong desire to excel in the skill and art of the profession. Most all have common sense regarding what is needed to paint art pictures but there are few great artists. Hopefully, all would agree that the great artists were not initially great but they practiced their skills and became prolific and highly capable artists over time. And some regardless of how hard and long they work at developing their skills don’t become great artists mainly because they do not have the aptitude.