Becoming a better project manager series : Taking ownership 

Being a project manager is tough. You are responsible for delivering results but don’t have complete control over the means to deliver them. Most of the times, the results are defined in the vaguest possible terms, that you don’t even know what results you have to deliver. Welcome to the world of project management where both the results and the means to deliver them are mired in ambiguity, uncertainty and flux.

This unsettled state of affairs, isn’t due to the level of maturity of the project management processes within the organization but due to the very nature of project management. The definitions of projects, by two leading authorities on project management illustrate this point further.

The Project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) guide’s definition of a project :  ” A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) description of a project : ” A project is a temporary organization created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed business case.”

The common message contained in both definitions is that projects are temporary i.e. they are non – permanent. This temporary nature of projects means that the outputs of the projects and the ways to create these outputs will always be embroiled in uncertainty, ambiguity and flux.

So, what do typical project mangers do when they are handed over a project. They complain that not enough details have been provided ; the process is broken; management doesn’t know what it is doing and on and on. My advice, get over it. this isn’t management’s fault or the processes fault or any body else’s fault, this is what projects are all about. So, instead of being intimated by uncertainty, ambiguity and flux ; embrace it.

And the best way of embracing it, is by taking visible ownership of the project. By taking ownership you have mentally accepted that the project is your responsibility and it is now your job to figure out how to get the project done successfully. And by being visible about the act of taking ownership, you send a signal to the project stakeholders that you have confidence in your skills as a project manger and project leader to manage and drive the project to success.

If you need further convincing about the value of taking ownership, check out this Harvard business review article.

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