Can Project Management be Fun?

Paul Naybour

Let’s face it, when you’re talking about project management, ‘fun’ is not a word you would expect to hear very often. And realistically, it’s probably not something you would expect to hear or experience in the job role itself. How many of your friends or colleagues use the word ‘fun’ when they talk about their job?

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find your project management job enjoyable. It might not be ‘fun’ like playing a game is fun, or having a cocktail and a laugh with friends is fun, but it should still have an element of enjoyment to it that makes you excited to be in the job role.

If you don’t feel happy, challenged and excited by your job role, you really need to be questioning why this is. When is it that jobs tend to make us not want to get out of bed in the morning? Generally it’s for one of a number of reasons:

·         the job is not leading anywhere

·         we’re being micro-managed when we shouldn’t be

·         we don’t feel motivated or inspired to do the job

·         we feel we don’t have the skills to do a good job

There are some people who will always feel dis-satisfied with their career and if you’re in a role where all of these issues are present, you need to consider whether or not you’re in the right job or whether or not you’re approaching it in the best way. When you feel completely unenthused by your job, you will not be your most productive but you’ll find that the more enjoyment you have, the more productive you are and the more in control you will feel.

You may not always enjoy everything about your role as a project manager but try to ensure there are certain aspects of the role, or certain types of projects, that you are enthusiastic about.

Here are some tips to help you have more ‘fun’ while you manage:

Really getting your hands dirty

Of course being a project manager does not always involve completing tasks yourself. In general the emphasis is on creating a really excellent project management framework and leading a team to success. However, it is more than likely you do have a specific set of technical expertise that you practised before you pursued project management or became an ‘accidental project manager’. Having the chance to practise these technical skills, no matter how small the task, can be extremely pleasurable and remind you where your passion for a particular area of the job came from. It could boost your confidence, prove your skillset and also simply enable you to experience a much needed change in pace from time to time.

Having the true freedom to lead

Are senior management continually poking their nose in? This can have a really negative effect on your project management abilities. You need to be able to have complete job autonomy in order to have fun. You need to be able to freely manage, with recognition from senior management that you can and will do a great job. This will enable you to build your confidence and build a great relationship with your team, and the client.

Knowing you have the best resources

When you know you have the best or right resources for a project, it enables you to approach it with a high level of confidence. You can create milestones that you know are realistic, and you can feel completely confident in the decisions you make.

Too many cooks

Sometimes you can have too many stakeholders (often with different agendas), which is never any fun. Often this ‘too many cooks’ scenario comes from not just one person being micro-managed, but several, which can truly have a negative effect on any project. Not being allowed to take the control you need to can cause a real lack of motivation. If you think too much micromanaging or there are simply too many stakeholders not adding value then you need to approach the right member of senior management and try to resolve the issue. It is an unnecessary drain on resources and it certainly doesn’t benefit you, your team, the project or any of the stakeholders.

Creativity and challenges

When a project requires you to stretch your skillset, it can give you a real boost of enthusiasm. If you’re continually running projects that are easily completed, that’s fantastic but it’s inevitable you will eventually get bored and you’ll lose your motivational spark. If this is you, it’s time to put your hand up for the next project that will be a challenge.

There are always going to be projects that are more enjoyable than others, and projects that make you want to bang your head against the wall. But, realistically you do need a good mixture of projects to keep you on your toes, to keep you excited and challenged. If you have recognised that your job is not fun, the next step is doing something about it. Luckily there is so much scope for growth and movement in project management you shouldn’t find it too difficult to tailor the job to suit you, even if it means switching companies or embarking on additional training to boost your skills.

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