What is an Accidental Project Manager?

The Accidental Project Manager is that person who never intended to be a Project Manager but seems to have ended up in the role. They are working as a Project Manager without ever having applied for the job.

Why do we have Accidental Project Managers?

One of the main reasons is that there are too many projects for the project managers available. If you look at the range of projects that are possible, it is unsurprising that ‘everything’ that is needed to drive a change in a business is a project.

  • Events projects
  • IT projects
  • Process improvement projects
  • Office move / factory relocation projects
  • Construction projects
  • New product development projects
  • Infrastructure projects

Added to the profusion of projects there are other factors within a business that mean we constantly need new project managers.

  • People retire from work with experience
  • Project Managers leave for other companies
  • Staff take time off for holidays and sickness

Project Management is also a ‘New profession’, Chartership was only granted to the APM in 2017. Although there are now courses available to students to study Project Management it is an experiential subject and it requires several years in order to produce competent project managers.

I constantly told my final year under-graduates that “In 6 months time you will be starting a new job, and given a project. The project that nobody else wants to manage!”.

What Should an Accidental Project Manager do?

So, how to succeed as a project manager?

Firstly, recognise that there is a salary ceiling to being the technical expert, and becoming a project manager can open up new career avenues. Project management is an experiential profession, and having a few years experience as a technical worker is a great foundation to being a good project manager.

Promotion from being the technical expert to becoming a project manager is fraught with danger. The technical expert must leave behind their technical skills, and look at the bigger, business focused, and team related landscape. A project manager is seen as a leader, and must look after the people in the project team.

One of the things a new project manager can do is to read blogs:

Signing up for some training is a good idea, but in the meantime sign up for news letters on Project Management.

Join the APM to get access to support, resources, and local groups to network with.


The APM has over 30,000 individual members, however the number of people taking project management qualifications is probably 10 times that number. The number working as project managers is probably 10 times that number again.

Business achieve their strategic objectives by running projects. These projects need to be managed.

Posted On: 10th February 2020

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