Who or what are what are accidental Project Managers?


If you’re worried this article might be about a failure of birth control, relax!   So who or what are Accidental Project Managers?

Well, there are PRINCE2 qualified Project Managers, PMP qualified Project Managers, Professional Scrum Masters and finally somewhere near the bottom of the pile, Accidental Project Managers.


No-one so much as whispered the word ‘project’ at the interview


Accidental Project Managers never signed up for project management.  No-one even mentioned it in their job interview or annual review.  They applied for a job with a title like Marketing Manager or Product Manager or Back Office Team Lead and sometimes even have the word ‘assistant’ in their job title.  The word ‘project’ was never so much as whispered.

They became Accidental Project Managers because a project needed to be run and there was no-one else to do it, or just as likely when the project ‘opportunity’ came around, their manager suddenly found themselves extremely busy with something else.

The only thing Accidental Project Managers are told is that they must deliver with these guys by that date.  They’ve never heard of estimation, project plans, risks, issues, dependencies and project costs…or at least when they start they haven’t.  Of course by delivery time with everyone asking why it’s so late and over-budget they’ve found out about risks and issues the hard way and spend their sleeping hours having lurid dreams about owning a project planner or even having a bit of training!


Put-upon and downtrodden


They are, in truth, to be pitied.  They are the put-upon and downtrodden of the business world, powerless, uncared for and stressed.

But hang on there’s help at hand!  Just type Project Management Software into Google and your screen will show the path to salvation.

Project management packages provide a much needed lifeline to the poor Accidental Project Manager.  Pick the right one and you’ll get a good intuitive project planner which allows you to share project plans with your team.  You’ll be able to measure how well you’re doing against your original estimates, share and review documents and collaborate with your team wherever they are – a sort of business version of Facebook, minus all the cute kitten posts.

It will also help you decide if the team you’ve been given have enough time to do the work, or have so little to do they really will be looking at cute kitten videos …or worse.  You’ll also be able to produce nice reports to inform your manager of progress and maybe surprise them with how well you’re doing.

Of course a little training and some decent processes wouldn’t go all together amiss either.


They can be helped


So if you have Accidental Project Managers in your company, please take pity, give generously and buy them some project management software.

Gren Gale is a Project Management Consultant, author of Project Management for SMEs (and its sister edition Project Management for SMBs in North America),  The Remote Project Manager and Remote Work The New Normal.  He has been named as one of the top 19 Key Opinion Leaders globally in Who’s Who in Remote Working?

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