“In short, they’re (project managers) a bit like a referee at a sporting event: Do a good job and nobody notices; make a mistake and the finger pointing begins.” ― Andrew Longman

andrewI first met Andrew in 1993 and I worked with him on several projects, notably for the Port of Seattle and Sears. When I look back at my career and the people I have worked with in the project management field, there are few people I enjoyed working with more.

I also team taught a couple of four day workshops with Andrew and when a participant asked a question, he would pause, think about the question and then answer. This wasn’t a pause and than an answer, this was a long pause. 10 seconds, 15 seconds or more. If you have ever conducted workshops in a corporate culture, it takes a lot confidence and courage to pause and think for 20 seconds, while 20 people are looking at you.

I remember the first time I saw him do this, I was sitting there wondering, “What is he doing?” “Is he actually thinking?” At first, honestly, I didn’t like it. But the answers were rich so after awhile I started looking forward to the “pause.”

The quote above is from his book, “The Rational Project Manager: A Thinking Team’s Guide to Getting Work Done.” It is not surprising to me that he wrote a book on project management and rational thinking because if I had to describe Andrew with two words, it would be “Rational Thinker.” 

philly

When I would drive by the “The Thinker” outside the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, I often thought the statue reminded me of Andrew.

Andrew passed away last October.

When we buy a house, we expect things like the plumbing, gas and electric to work flawlessly. When they don’t – it is a big deal. Things get urgent in a hurry. It is the same with a project in many ways, we expect the project to be on schedule, within budget and that we are going to get exactly what we want.

When things go wrong, all figures point toward the project manager. Most of us can handle that, it is part of the job. We have tools, techniques and communication strategies to deal effectively with problems.

But we are all human too. As a project manager we are in front of all of the stakeholders. One thing for sure, about being a project manager, is it is a lot like being an referee, make a mistake and it is going to get noticed.

When I lived in Philadelphia, I never did go into the Rodin Museum. I was always in a hurry. I think that that is one of the primary reasons we utilize project management tools and techniques, they help us do better thinking. They get us to slow down and think.

One reviewer of Andrew’s book, wrote this, “I am now retired, but I wish that during my 27-year career as a university librarian I had had a guide like The Rational Project Manager to see me through the many complex projects I was responsible for carrying out. When moving special collections or setting up a preservation lab, my team and I would have benefited enormously from having a clear, easy to follow process for managing important projects.”

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