You are a Hero… But don’t be a Hero

Long time readers of my blog and editors of my book (thank you!) will know I am passionate about the Hero’s Journey. I truly believe that we are all heroes of our own story. And our stories are wildly different in nature, but with some key things in common:

  • The Call to adventure from the ordinary world
  • Meeting the mentor
  • Crossing the threshold
  • Tests, trials and allies
  • An ordeal and victory
  • Return with the elixir and new learnings to share

A lovely lady participated in one of my presentations recently and raised a very interesting point later that has got me thinking. In the presentation she was at, I briefly touched on the Hero’s Journey and did not elaborate due to time constraints. So as a result, she went away with the thought that I was encouraging “Hero Project Management”. Oh no! That was not my intention, but I can see how someone would have interpreted it that way.

The Hero Project Manager

We all know the type, don’t we? The dashing Project Manager, that races in at the last minute, causes more chaos and claims victory because they just manage to get the project across the line. There is a definite place for this type of Project Manager. Mainly because organisations allow themselves to get to the point where a “crisis” is identified. These crises could be easily avoided with better up front planning and stakeholder engagement, but a project going well and keeping on track is boring, right? Wrong! I do tend to talk about this a fair bit in my coaching blog and I believe strongly that we all have a need for variety. A need for something different, even daring. If we are not getting it in a resourceful way, we seek it in unresourceful ways. This (and probably a number of other factors) contribute to the increasing number of “crises” we see in projects. Enter, the Hero Project Manager.

Don’t be a Hero

To avoid the need for a Hero Project Manager, recognise where you and your project are in the Hero’s Journey and what energy, skills and attention you need to bring to your project at this time. At the very start, LOTS of attention and energy in the form of coming up with new ideas, risk items and scope is your priority. Planning and stakeholder engagement are critical. In the middle, it’s all about keeping people on track and in order – perhaps even a spreadsheet or two (you know who you are…). New ideas cannot simply be embraced without due diligence and careful management. In the end, it’s a balance between excitement and administration.

By maintaining that balance, and adopting good Agile practices and principles, your project will still achieve all it needs to achieve, and still be a little bit exciting at times. The world needs more Project Managers who can do that than heroes looking at saving the day.

Side note: I once worked for an organisation that awarded a “Save the Day” prize for the Project Manager who saved a project from imminent disaster. Seriously, what sort of behaviour does that encourage?



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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.