The great push in project management is for project managers to be so skilled and professional that they can take on any project and by following the correct techniques and procedures see it through to a successful conclusion. If life were simple and we could trust everyone to do their job and specifications be set correctly and remain unchanged, this would be a possibility. But life just isn't like that. If you're going to get a good grip on a project you have to understand the business. We don't mean understanding the user requirement document; that's relatively easy. We mean understanding the business so you know the overall impact of your project decisions on business activities.
This presents something of a problem. A home-grown expert in the business is unlikely to be an experienced project manager, whilst an expert project manager is unlikely to be experienced in a particular business area. Some large organizations, of course, can afford to develop individuals specifically to fill these roles, but most can't.
There is a pragmatic solution. First, if your company decides you can head up a project despite having had little project management experience, don't feel inadequate because you're new to this role. Work hard on your skills but don't forget the benefits your experience brings to the project. On the other hand, the experienced project manager knows that although he can talk Net Present Value and Critical Path Analysis with the best of them, if he doesn't understand what is important to users he could still preside over a failure even though he might meet his specification. If you know the business you might well run a good project; equally if you've run projects before you might well come to a business and run a good project. If you can do both, though, your chances of succeeding increase enormously.
If you come to a business to run a project, spend some time learning how it works before you embark on changing anything. It might seem like wasting time but you will reap the benefits later.
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