December 14, 2017


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

The Accidental Project Manager

By Linky van der Merwe

By definition an Accidental Project Manager is “A business professional where project management is a secondary responsibility, but who is asked to do important corporate projects nonetheless”.

It can also be any person who now manages projects for the first time with little or no prior experience or training.Accidental project manager

You may feel a bit like the guy in this picture!

According to research most project managers start out with a qualification which determines their early years’ experience. Often these individuals are technical specialists who were put in charge of projects in their respective fields or industries. If they show potential as managers and work well with people, they tend to gravitate toward project management. With introspection, they would discover that project management actually suits their natural abilities and complements their core talents and skills.

The move to full-time project management becomes easier once they undergo some training that would equip them with adequate technical and interpersonal skills. Although many of these skills are usually honed with experience while managing projects.

Often there would be a high expectation to succeed especially if they come from a background of being a subject matter expert or a manager, managing teams of people.

An accidental project manager would be eager and motivated to learn. Such a manager requires some sort of accelerated learning in order to become more confident at doing project management. A fortunate project manager, would be sent to do a project management course ranging from 5 days (typical project management methodology course) to 6 months with a diploma at the end.

Career Path

In many organisations, there is no clarity on the typical career path options that project managers have. They are left to their own devices with perhaps only their Line Managers giving them guidance and support.

I believe that many good project managers are often lost to the profession if they don’t have a clear career path within an organisation with a mature project management program. There needs to be opportunities created for training and mentoring, for networking with other project managers who are at the same organisation or at least with others who work at similar organisations or in similar industries.

Some-times the right opportunities are not available for project managers to move from being junior to more senior project managers and even program or portfolio managers. A project manager would then have to move to another organisation which presents a growth opportunity, leaving their previous organisation to lose good talent and intellectual property.

Mistakes new project managers make

Understanding how the scenario plays itself out over and over again for new project managers coming on-board into this ‘accidental profession’, it will come as no surprise that the inexperienced project managers will keep making the same mistakes that are so typical, like:

  • Poor governance (importance of good governance is underestimated, or not understood)
  • No Business Case
  • Unclear scope (requirements analysis are not done appropriately, or scope keeps changing)
  • Not doing proper planning, planning in isolation (common pitfall for new PM’s)
  • No break-down structure showing phases, milestones with deliverables (no experience with project methodology)
  • Underestimate the effort, chasing imposed deadlines (no confidence in own/team’s ability to plan well and giving feedback on realistic timelines)
  • Not proper buy-in from stakeholders (happens often with inexperienced PM with little authority)


Accelerated Learning

What accidental project managers often need, is a fast-track learning program to give them the necessary confidence to see projects through to a successful delivery. They need to grow critical project management competencies and learn how to overcome the biggest challenges on projects.

The learning curve can be steep while trying to become effective as a project manager through trial and error. They can make many mistakes and waste time and money.

PM Toolbox

If an accidental project manager can build the following PM Toolbox when starting out, it will make a big difference in their experience. Once a project is delivered successfully, the sense of accomplishment is a great reward. Good project managers will choose to stay in the profession and pursue project management as a long-term career.

The PM Toolbox would include:

  • The essential technical project management skills you need for your new role
  • The soft skills you’ll use daily on projects and how to develop them
  • Understanding Governance in order to be an effective project manager
  • The main pitfalls for new project managers and how to avoid them
  • How to examine your goals and aspirations to define a career path
  • Which strategies to implement that will yield the biggest results
  • What it means to be a professional and how you can become one too

For more information on how to build your PM Toolbox as part of a fast-track growth program, visit Project Manager Growth.

Is Project Management a Growing Profession?

As a professional project manager you are concerned about your career growth and the future of your profession. You enjoy your work and receive much satisfaction from completing projects successfully. Yet the economy is not growing as expected and more people are reported to be part of the unemployment statistics.

How is the project management profession impacted by this?

A report published by the Project Management Institute called: “Project Management Skills Gap Assessment”, looks at Project Management between 2010 and 2020. (you need to be registered to view the Report)

The forecast is that between 2010 and 2020 15.7 million new project management roles will be created globally across seven project-intensive industries, along with tremendous growth in salaries.  This enormous anticipated growth, along with higher-than-average salaries, will make the next seven years an opportune time for professionals and job-seekers to build project management skills.

Rising Salaries

It is said that this high demand for project-oriented professionals is reflected in both average salary and salary growth. Project Management Professional (PMP) ® credential holders in the U.S. earned an average of 16 percent more (approximately US$14,500) than their non-credentialed peers in 2011.

Growing Industries

project intensive industriesCurrently, project-intensive industries in the U.S. that support the greatest number of project management roles are business services and manufacturing, with 2 million and 630,000 project management jobs, respectively, in 2010. However, business services and healthcare (not currently a project-intensive industry) are expected to lead the pack in terms of growth between 2010 and 2020. In particular, the healthcare industry is projected to increase project management roles by 30%.

In 10 countries with established or quickly developing project management industries, project management roles are expected to increase by over 13.4 million between 2010 and 2020, to over 41.5 million. In addition, the economic output of the profession in these 10 countries will increase.

China and India will lead the growth in project management, generating approximately 8.1 million and 4 million project management roles through 2020, respectively. Total employment for project managers will increase in nine of the 10 countries.

The 10 countries with established or quickly developing project management industries are:

  1. Australia
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Germany
  5. Japan
  6. China
  7. India
  8. Brazil
  9. Saudi Arabia
  10. United Arab Emirates


The rapid growth of demand for project professionals and the exceptional salary levels make the project management profession highly desirable to job seekers. Currently, demand for project management professionals is not matched by availability of resources with relevant project management skills. This means that job seekers will find the next 7 years to be an unparalleled opportunity to build project management skills and enter this flourishing market.

The report results point to immense growth of the profession globally. If you are an existing project management practitioner or an aspiring project manager, please take a look at the many project management resources listed on Virtual Project Consulting. You will find recommended training, products, software or valuable websites that will enhance your growth as a project manager.

What does Project Management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon

project management fits me like a gloveWhen I was young, a good friend made a prediction to encourage me about finding a job: “you’ll find something that will fit you like a glove”.

That statement became true, once project management found me and I chose to become a project manager.

I want to be a project manager when I grow up

When looking at project management as a profession, little used to be known about what a project manager does and what the typical work day of a project manager looks like. Children never use to say: “I want to be a project manager when I grow up.” Refer to an earlier article about “Take Project Management out of the Box”.

Where it all started

Years ago I started as a project administrator. Then I moved into IT support and I was always chosen to manage all the projects in our division. This is something I enjoyed because it was a natural fit.

As a project manager I’m in the fortunate position to be doing something that suits my abilities and temperament and which complements my core talents and skills. I enjoy the variation provided by being involved in various different projects and teams. It brings excitement when starting something new, as well as satisfaction when bringing a project to successful completion and having formed lasting relationships with the team members.

Being a strong communicator and a person who cares about people, project management has become my destined career where I feel comfortable and I believe that I am making a difference.

I was blessed with the addition of 3 beautiful children that enriched my life to the point that I actually gave up my full-time, permanent position and started to work in contract project management which provided more flexibility to work part-time and still continue with a professional career.

A Mature Profession

Today project managers are making a difference in every aspect of society whether it’s in IT, financial sector, retail, engineering, mining, welfare organisations or public sector and plenty of other industries. A thriving industry in itself has developed around the project management profession with companies providing products, software, training, recruitment and consulting; all with the main objective of making projects more successful in terms of how well they are managed and to provide the outcome and benefits as intended. Project management as a profession has matured.

In recent years young people are actually considering project management as a career with plenty of University and online training being available and offering a relatively well mapped out career path that offers growth opportunities and good compensation.

Blogging as my contribution

As part of my mission to give something back to my community, I have been blogging on Virtual Project Consulting about project management best practices, processes and tools for the past 4,5 years. I reach out to existing and aspiring project managers while offering a hub of recommended resources.

Virtual Project Consulting

Let’s continue to develop, grow and contribute as this is how we find meaning and where we can continue to make a difference where we are.

P.S. This post is publishedpmflashblog3 as part of a first ever project management-related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Over 70 bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is here so please go and check them out!

About Linky van der Merwe: Linky is the Founder of Virtual Project Consulting. Her mission is to provide project management best practices and to recommend resources to aspiring and existing project managers.  A certified project management professional (PMP) with more than 14 years project management experience and a track record of more than 40 successful projects. She is currently working for Microsoft Consulting Services, South Africa.

Practical use for Social Media in Project Management – Part II: Facebook, Yammer

By Linky van der Merwe

For most Project Management professionals social media is already part of their lives whether they use it intentionally or not.  Let’s take a closer look at social media platforms already widely adopted in project management.

Part I of this article, can be found here: Practical use for Social Media in Project Management.


These days many project managers or project management companies have Facebook pages. On Facebook you can learn from experts about project management. You can create professional contacts to get questions answered or to jump to a suggested site.

When you perform a search for Pages on “Project Management”, you will find more than a 1000 Pages. A search for project managers, also give results for more than 1000 people, which can be refined to your own country or city to find people you may know.

Visit some Pages, find out what is being shared, Like Pages, join Groups and become part of the communities where you can contribute or where valuable information is shared.



Yammer is like Facebook’s equivalent, but in the corporate world, focused on the company. With Yammer, you can share announcements, create a team calendar of milestones, create pages for different interests, and upload documents.

Also consider posting your team norms, latest screenshots of the app for team members to comment on, and sharing video updates or team photos.

Yammer allows for more in-depth updates and comments can also be grouped into a “thread” beneath each post, allowing for a more conversational tone – See more at:

Let us know in the Comments if you’re using Facebook or Yammer for your projects and how that is working for you.

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