When is a PM not a PM?

When they’re an instructional designer.

Some months ago I claimed the title Learning Architect. I liked how it sounded, is was an apt description of what I was doing.

I’m still holding on to that title, however I’m currently working on a project that is testing me and building my skill set out in other ways. Unwanted, un-soughtafter ways!

My clearly stated and written rule about project work was that I could do content or I could pm, but not both. Guess what I’m doing now?

Yep, that in addition to managing a team according to a vision that is in my head but haven’t had time to articulate. A few key, recurring words I have observed come up on this project. Alignment. Learning. Clarification.


At the moment, I feel like I am holding the lifesaver, still in the water but at least not drowning. I’ve had to claw my way up a very steep learning curve, facing all kinds of adversity, unfriendly internet connections being the least of my worries. (Remedying that as of tomorrow, I’m biting the bullet and renting a desk at a local coworking space. Door code access baby!)

This project is a different animal from what I’m used to. It’s very urgent, and my budding PM skills aren’t yet wholly up to the task, I can admit that. I’m making mistakes. Things are slipping through the cracks. Maybe its exactly the project I needed to deal with my hubris!

Is this normal? How do other people in this role manage their self perception? Maintain the confidence needed to work with clients and colleagues everyday? In this Social Age, this iterative, safe space riddled age where challenge is the norm? I have one point of view from the client, however, working in a virtual office, I don’t have a watercooler that I can go to to bitch around. There’s no advice, no external, impartial perspective on hand.

No one can operate in a vacuum, and I do think it is the organization’s responsibility to support people in the roles that are asked of them. For my part, I’m making changes, adjusting my communication according to the needs of each person on my team. I can do that, we’re still a small team! I’m also taking the need for a watercooler into my own hands and going to a coworking space. I will also be manifesting a mentor, knowing that I can’t seek one out but be able toi recognize them when they come along.

In order to keep with my current resolution to reflect, but keep it constructive, I will end with another thought about leading a virtual team. Keep in touch. Daily if necessary, especially at the beginning. This goes for me, my learning about how I lead these kinds of teams, but also a reflection about how I would like to be led.

Everyone involved in this project is in a learning space. Not just related to roles, but how we work together. Learning these things take time, however, in startup land, we need to find ways to boost connections that usually form naturally over time. Because when its on, its on! And you need people around you you can rely on.

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One thought on “When is a PM not a PM?

  1. As normal, very timely. Honestly, I think these days we all need PM skills – especially those of the Agile style. Besides my current struggle of being stuck and demotivated, I struggle with how to herd cats among constant change and break projects down in that Agile methodology. I also somehow fight against the urge to dive deeper into the topic because I don’t want to be flung into the role full time. The little bit I have dipped my toe into the topic, I did find that software developers can be your best friends when learning good PMing skills. Hopefully you have some of those in your new co-working space ; )

    Liked by 1 person

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