The Joy of Project Management

The other day, I was interviewing for a Project Manager role, and I was asked what I liked about project management. It wasn’t a question I’d ever given much thought to, honestly, but I was in a highly creative environment that valued open communication, so I gave it about two seconds of thought, and dropped an analogy.

It’s like a symphony. Every resource is an instrument. The project plan is the sheet music. And the PM is the conductor. As a conductor, you put your stamp on the performance. Beethoven’s Ninth is going to sound different depending on the conductor (and instruments).

It’s an act of creation. A subtle one, perhaps — you’re not going to be Yo-Yo Ma on first cello when you’re waving the baton, but you do get to tell him how to approach the music.

I’ve always enjoyed the act of creation (sorry about the crayon on the walls in Berlin, mom), but like many creators, I’ve had a hard time with the feedback portion of my art. I didn’t deal with criticism well. Project management works for me because while I am creating, I don’t have the same level of emotional investment in the final work as I would if I were the one pushing the pixels, bleeding all over the keyboard, or brazing steel tubes together. Yes, I care deeply about what I do and I care about being the best I possibly can at it. But if someone criticizes the color scheme or the placement of buttons or the typography or whatever, it’s not the existential kick in the nuts that it would be had I been the sole creator involved from end to end.

That is why project management is something I enjoy.