Being a Project Manager can sometimes be a thankless gig. If a project goes smoothly, everyone shares the credit. If it goes off the rails, it was probably all your fault. As Nancy Lyons recently said at the 2014 DPM Summit: “Project management is like air quality. If you can see it, it’s probably killing you.”

For most of us in this field, that’s kind of OK. We are an industry filled with “helpers” and “pleasers” and “just get it done-ers.” We don’t particularly want the limelight, anyway. But how does that impact the perceived value of our profession? How do we raise the level of awareness, recognition, and value for something that, when it’s good, you can’t see it?

I talked to my friend/digital PM/wizard of words Amy Kapell about this conundrum and her response was equal parts inspired and inspiring. In her words:

You enlist the power of myth.

Sounds weird, right? Well it worked in the 1960s when the United States wanted to send a man to the moon (which must have been one hell of a project to manage, by the way). Sure, we needed the tech to do it, but we needed even more the funding and support to make it happen. JKF and others (even Sci-Fi writers played their part) whipped up a mythic frenzy about America’s destiny as a country, the value of going to the moon, the spirit of the American people, the ideology of the Frontier. It consumed a decade. For a time, America believed in something, in the myth of something so strongly, they got behind it with their votes, their money and their voices. They had leaders, speakers, people who told them the why and the how and they followed it (sometimes blindly).

So what is project management’s mythology? Brace yourself. Amy again:

We are the eye in the hurricane of chaos – we command, we control, we ground. We listen, we worry, we care, we are the center around which all others orbit. We are the purveyors of schedules and the keeper of secrets. We’re the friend next door, the avenging angel. We are diplomats, we are presidents. We wipe the tears, we take out the trash. We know exactly how to get to where we’re going – and we know how to bring everyone along. We are the quiet ones who make it all possible.

Without us, there is chaos.

Our time is now. To embrace our mythology. To stand up, assert our value to our projects’ successes, and maybe even step into that limelight a bit. So… just how are you going to do that?

Companion content:

downloadable poster: We Are Project Managers
book: Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath
link: Matthew Wilhelm Kapell publications
song: Fall Out Boy – Centuries (Mr. Fahrenheit Remix)


Amy is the VP of Client Strategy and Communication at Closed Loop, where she synthesizes the contributions of their design, UX, creative, and strategy teams into comprehensive plans for improving the user experience, usability, and conversion rates of enterprise-level websites. As a teenager, she wrote a short story entitled "The Mysteries of Stonehenge," which also had aliens in it for some reason.

Connect with her on Twitter

Carson has been doing the digital project management thing for over a decade now, and still loves every minute. After hours, Carson listens to music no one else likes, plays hockey poorly, and co-runs the DPM Edmonton Meetup.

Connect with him on Twitter


  1. Fabulous. Shared with the team at work. I might even print some of that out and hang it up in my office for inspiration.

  2. Great post! I especially love the hurricane idea.

    But I do think there is chaos either way… It’s just that we’re the ones staring it down and trying to make sure we can see all of it without blinking and pretending it isn’t there. We’ve taken responsibility for being the ones to talk people down off the ledge and help them find a way through the chaos.
    We do this because we’re the ones watching all the corners.
    We succeed by helping and serving others
    And we take the bag of oranges to the gut so the team doesn’t have to

    And Nancy is spot on… I know I am doing my job well when stuff is getting done and people start wondering what the hell I do all day and why they even need me. Nobody likes a noisy ninja.

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