When will I be Famous?

This is the all-important question asked in the song by Bros (a British band active in the late 1980s consisting of twin brothers Matt Goss and Luke Goss, and Craig Logan. The band’s name comes from an abbreviation for the word ‘brothers’).

WelcometoFabulousLas_Vegas_Sign_1_edit-300x225

Can we ask that same question of project management? When will I, as a project manager, be famous? I mean, give a project to a good project manager (supported in all the right ways with sponsorship and resources, etc.), and then something truly special happens. So why can’t the skills of the project manager be appreciated by the general public? We should all be famous, if not rich, by now surely! Well at least well-known…

Others do it. There is a growing trend in the UK, originating from the US I believe, where children are encouraged to take their parents in to school and get the parents to talk about their jobs. I have never been asked to go in to my children’s school, in fact when I did mention it to my youngest son he had a look of pure horror at the thought of me coming to his school and speaking to his peers.

Now I know that they have had a police officer in who, no doubt, talked about road safety and not talking to strangers; they have had a nurse in who talked about healthcare issues and how to look after yourself; they have had a firefighter in to explain about the dangers of fires and what to do if you are in such danger.

These are all important and seemingly – to children – exciting jobs. But project management is neither apparently exciting nor does it have a uniform (something I note that the people who have gone into the school have in common) – thought: should we perhaps design a uniform for project managers?

But consider this. We can easily state that ‘doctors make people better’, that ‘policemen catch bad people’, that ‘builders make homes, that ‘authors write books’, that ‘movie stars make films’ and so on. But we can’t say ‘project managers manage projects’ because that doesn’t tell people anything.

Now try this, can you name three famous historical project managers? If you were asked this question you might well lean towards a number of areas:

  • Science and art: Leonardo da Vinci
  • Engineering: Isambard Kingdom Brunel
  • Manufacturing: Henry Ford
  • Cultural: Nelson Mandela
  • Military: Attila the Hun

I have selected but a few names that came to my mind when I asked this question myself.

On the other hand, you might not:

  • Da Vinci said ‘Art is never finished, only abandoned.’ So not exactly in line with our project closure theory.
  • Brunel stated ‘I am opposed to the laying down of rules or conditions to be observed in the construction of bridges lest the progress of improvement tomorrow might be embarrassed or shackled by recording or registering as law the prejudices or errors of today.’ So he was no fan of rigid discipline, but rather of allowing for innovation and development.
  • Ford declared ‘I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.’ Again a very open and flexible approach is desired.
  • Nelson Mandela said ‘It always seems impossible until its done…’. How true that seems on projects.
  • Attila the Hun probably came up with some great quotes – maybe ‘******, attack, kill, invade, *****!’ – but we don’t have those recorded for posterity.

What about naming three famous current project managers?

I know we could probably name three. I would perhaps suggest Dr Harold Kerzner (IIL), Dr David Hillson (Risk Doctor), and Frank Saladis (International Project Management day founder), and I could certainly add to that list as I am sure you could as well – but the point is that outside of the project management world these people are unknown. No one within our project world has yet been universally recognised in this day and age. It is all about the project and not the project manager. Even the Lazy Project Manager (www.thelazyprojectmanager.com ) has not yet reached that level of fame and I can safely walk the streets without the paparazzi pursuing me.

In the UK the London 2012 Olympics were universally declared a brilliant success and there were, of course, project ‘architects’ for that success – program managers, project managers, and an assorted collection of sponsors, leaders and team members but I would challenge most people to name the key project leaders who made this success come about. If you can then great but in general it is the project and not the project manager who gets the glory. And perhaps this is rightly so.

And why on earth did I think of Bros after all of these years? Well they were famous for sure and these days Matt Goss is really famous having been elevated to the status of ‘Mr. Vegas’ with his residency at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.

And why did I think of Las Vegas? Well it is where I will be enjoying the coming New Year with my family celebrating another fantastic year in the project world.

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