One myth of project management is that certain people have an innate ability to do it well, and others do not. Whenever this myth came up in conversation with other project managers, I always asked for an explanation of that ability—how to recognize and develop it in others. After debate, the only thing we identified—after many of the other topics covered in this book—is the ability to make things happen. Some people are able to apply their talents in whatever combination necessary to move projects forward, and others cannot, even if they have the same individual skills. The ability to make things happen is a combination of knowing how to be a catalyst in a variety of different situations and having the courage to do so.
This is so important it's used as a litmus test in hiring project managers. Even if PMs can't precisely define the ability, they do feel that they can sense it in others. For example, many hiring managers ask the question about candidates: "If things were not going well on an important project, would I feel confident sending this person into that room, into that debate, and believe he'd find a way to make it better, whatever the problem was?" If after a round of interviews the answer is no, the candidate is sent home. The belief is that if he isn't agile enough to adapt his skills to the situations at hand, he won't thrive on a typical project. This chapter is about the ability to make things happen.