Are you an accidental project manager? My wife is

If you read our last article and you are reading this article now good news and welcome back to a fun article. We are re-publishing this from a year ago (or more).

Read this Article in ArabicIn the last article we talked about the accidental project manager and we explained that the term is not offensive at all; if it was offensive, my project manager would have fired me a long time ago (imagine a funny face). She actually edited and approved this article after a lecture on my house duties with one task at a time (you will understand when you finish reading).

In this article, we will share with you a semi personal message since we will joke a bit, we will use a personal analogy but the message is not personal and it is not about my wife but it is an inspiration – every working woman that can balance 20 things without a glitch.

I dedicated my first book, The Inheritance, a story about friendship, community, and project management to my lovely wife, the unofficial representative of the “personal” accidental project manager. In the acknowledgement of that book, I shared: “I know my wife doesn’t always believe me when I say this, but it’s true: a good part of the inspiration for this book comes from watching her. I joke with her and call her an accidental project manager.

The main objective of writing that book was to spread the use of project management thinking to a wider part of the professional community and reach out to those who are unfamiliar with this exciting domain. I personally view project management as a powerful giant that resides inside each of us and an essential capability not only for work-related projects but for life projects.

How to discover that there is a giant residing inside each one of us regardless of our pursuits in life? How to awaken this giant from its deep sleep (hibernation), how to deal with this giant, tame it, refine it and utilize it in order to serve our personal and professional growth?” (Ajam, Giant, 2006)

Inspiration for the book and this article

Nabila, my wife, decided not to continue with a full-time career, even though she worked for years as an engineer with global companies in the United States and Europe. She worked hard as an engineer and did well, but with the birth of our first child she decided to be a stay-at-home mom.

When she made that choice, she did not realize that “careers” aren’t the only place where one can practice project management. She still does not think (consciously) that project management can be used for many things, large and small, personal and professional. As we shared in the previous article, we aren’t saying every person must be a trained project manager, but exposure to project management thinking often inspires people to apply the concepts to their personal lives.

Nabila, the unofficial representative of Mom: The Project Manager

I watch with interest the personal and coordination skills that Nabila uses in running our life projects. I watch her maintain a balance as she supports us in the company part-time and takes care of our children, supervises their school activities and birthday parties, and tracks our family’s activities.  It takes a good project manager to keep her eye on the goals, and there are many small goals in everyone’s life. Isn’t that what project management is all about? How many of us could manage multiple projects effectively?

I’m not trying to present my beautiful wife as a superwoman, but isn’t she an example of almost every working woman and mother? What can we learn from that?

We often see projects as big and complicated things, but it’s important to handle them, as Nabila likes to say, “one piece at a time. Then what appears to be a large project is suddenly nothing more than various smaller pieces or goals (tasks). This may sound like an oversimplification, but isn’t the concept of Work Breakdown Structure all about subdividing a project into smaller, manageable pieces?

I am neither a scientist, nor a well-read person in the area of science and the man vs. woman brains but I do recognize that it is perceived (maybe scientifically proven) that women are better at multi-tasking than men and what is a project if not a continual balancing act of numerous tasks? Sometime I joke with Nabila and today was a reminder for me. When it is about home related matters, she can be cooking, watching TV, doing dishes during the commercial, chasing tasks for us at the company, while preparing for our boys studies and supervising their study time while managing to strike a conversation with me or someone on the phone. Great multi-tasking abilities.

The disaster is when it comes to work. A day or so ago, she said she wants to work professionally again (she does a few tasks for us now but wanted more). I told her I have a part time job that she should try out. She said “on one condition: one task at a time”. Then she said “you can give me more tasks but I will handle only one at a time.” Oops? Maybe science was wrong but I do not think so and I am not saying this to defend my wife because I am the opposite. At work I can handle 10 things in parallel but at home, one task at a time. It must be the genes!

Closure

We’re not expecting that everyone will become a project manager or learn to manage large, complex projects. We do hope that readers will learn to handle their own projects more effectively.  We would like to see these “accidental project managers” improve on their success rates and reduce their mistakes.

Author Notes:

  1. Some of the text is from the author first book, The Inheritance, self-published by SUKAD in 2010 and a complimentary download is available from the author personal web page, www.mounirajam.com.
  2. Yes – this article was approved, and actually edited by our own accidental project manager.

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