Are Project Managers just Paper Pushers?

Project Managers are glorified babysitters.
Project Management is all about paperwork.
Project Managers are born, not made.

These are but a few of the misconceptions about Project Management.  The full scope of Project Management is often misunderstood as the discipline is vast and constantly evolving. While the number of projects a company runs varies depending on its size and complexity, the average number of projects a Project Manager caretakes is between 2 – 5 at a time.  According to, only 15% of Project Managers work on only one project at a time.

With the Project Management Institute (PMI) forecasting 20 million Project Managers by 2027, surely, if the discipline was all about paperwork, the profession would be banned to end widespread deforestation.  

We’ve rounded up the top 5 most believed myths below with the aim of shedding some light into what Project Management really entails.

Myth 1: Project management is all about the process.

Project Management is not just about the process. It is also about the stakeholders (people) involved in the project. Project Managers need to be able to work with people from different backgrounds, sometimes spread out across different geographical locations, and who have different skills.

Not only do they need to be able to motivate and inspire team members to work together towards a common goal, but they also need to ensure the project meets the needs of key stakeholders for the project to be deemed successful. Project Management is as much about leading people and building relationships as it is about managing the process.

Myth 2: Project managers are just paper pushers.

While paperwork forms part of a Project Manager’s day-to-day, it definitely does not (and should not) define the role. In addition to updating and maintaining project documentation, Project Managers also:

  • Communicate to/with project stakeholders.
  • Build and manage the Project Team.
  • Manage risks.
  • Solve problems.
  • Make strategic decisions.

Read our article: Project Communications: Barriers & Gateways

Myth 3: Project managers are always in control.

Project Managers cannot control everything that happens on a project. There will always be unexpected events that can throw a project off course such as natural disasters, changes to regulations, technology failures, human errors, or conflict with stakeholders.  However, great Project Managers are able to adapt to change and steer their projects back on track.

Myth 4: Project Management is a one-size-fits-all approach.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Project Management. Every organisation, stakeholder and project team is different and requires a different approach. Great Project Managers tailor and adapt their approach to the specific needs of the project and environment of the organisation. Failing to adapt to the organisation and project’s environment could result in:

  • Projects not meeting expectations like budget, schedule or quality standards.
  • Increased risk of failure due to inadequate risk management.
  • Increased stress and burnout due to increased pressure to deliver against an approach that is not fit for purpose or the environment.

Myth 5: Project Management is easy.

Project Management is a complex and challenging process. It requires incredible effort on the planning, communication, and coordination fronts, and Project Managers need to have a wide range of skills and knowledge to be successful. While it is by no means an easy profession, it can be a rewarding career that can lead to a lot of achievement and personal satisfaction.

Read our article: Shifting focus: Soft Skills Development a Key Priority for 2023