I have generally worked in professional services organizations where resources are managed and assigned to projects by some ‘gatekeepers’ who are keeping track of their availability and project utilization rates. Similar gatekeepers are also managing the overall project portfolio…prioritizing projects and assigning them to project managers based on areas of experience and availability to take on new engagements.
Therefore, staking a claim to an upcoming project isn’t usually an option for me as a PM, but it is as a consultant. As a PM, I’ve usually found out about what new projects are available only as they were being assigned to individual project managers. One time I knew a project for Disney was coming up and I said that I would like to have that one – but so did everyone else in the organization and I think that ultimately the deal never closed on that one anyway.
Looking at projects as a consultant, or those rare occasions or organizations where you may have some opportunity to pick and chose the projects you are assigned, what are some of the reasons you can think of that would cause you to desire to have a particular project assigned to you as the project manager? Would it be the length of the project? The simplicity of it? The complexity of it? The technology that may be utilized? The location you would end up traveling to full time or periodically? The option for remote project management? What would be the driving factors for you?
For me, my top five – in no particular order – are these…
The proposed technology is interesting. If I’m going to get a chance to oversee a team on a project where we are going to be using some new cutting edge technology or some interesting technology that I’ve never had involvement with before, then I want that project. It’s nice to take on projects that you feel overly comfortable with – and I’m definitely all over those assignments when my workload is tight. But if I have the availability and I’m offered a project that is a real technical reach for me (but I still feel I can be successful at it), then I consider it a great career move and something that I want to be involved with.
The project is groundbreaking. When the project involves blazing a new trail either overall or for the company I’m working for, it’s interesting. I was assigned a project to implement my organization’s proprietary software for an airline customer. They had never entered into the airline industry so it was interesting to me….a new challenge. One project involved taking on the largest government implementation of this type of technology ever. Tell me that and I say ‘yes.’ Treading in uncharted territory is exciting and challenging…I usually want that type of project.
Managing remotely is possible. This one is important to me since it’s what I’ve been doing – and doing very successfully – for the past seven years. I like to travel from time to time and a project that does involve some onsite work is fine, but I’m rarely going to be interested in something that will require 100% onsite work for any extended period of time. It’s not worth it to me.
The customer is attractive. And I don’t mean visually attractive, but I think you know that. I mean the customer is interesting, going places, innovative, has an entrepreneurial flare or seems to be very excited about what lies ahead. You can sense these things – often just by some early interaction with a prospective client or project customer. If they get excited about it, then I usually do, too.
The timing is right. What I mean by this is the fit for the project is good for me right now. It’s a complex project when I’m surrounded by simple ones or it’s simple when I’m knee-deep in difficult assignments. When it fits my schedule and availability like a missing piece to a puzzle, then I want that project because I value the full utilization and constant cash flow as much as the next PM or consultant.
This is my top five list of reasons for wanting to take on a particular project. What’s your top reasons for seeking out or accepting a particular project assignment? And even if you don’t have the luxury of choosing each PM assignment you’re given, what items would you include on your list if you could pick and choose?