Skip to main content


Are you an “Accidental” Project Manager

Suddenly managing a project with no training or experience? You have just become an Accidental Project Manager.

By definition an Accidental Project Manager is “A business professional where project management is a secondary responsibility, but who is asked to do important corporate projects nonetheless.”

It can also be any person who now manages projects for the first time with little or no prior experience or training.

Not everyone who finds themselves tasked with leading a project has formally studied project management. According to research, most project managers start out with a qualification which determines their early years’ experience. Often these individuals are technical specialists who were put in charge of projects in their respective fields or industries.

Like many others, you probably didn’t plan to get into project management, but fell into it, so to speak. You weren’t originally employed to do (or manage) project work, but with time you were asked to look after a couple of projects in addition to your regular responsibilities. You haven’t received much training—if any—and your company doesn’t have a unified method for managing projects.

So here you are – feeling uncertain about your scheduling planning skills and expected to juggle your projects without much guidance or experience. You sometimes think of yourself as a “chaos-pilot” more than a project manager, trying to navigate as best you can. How do you know what to do, or if what you are doing is the right move?

You hate being called an “Accidental Project Manager”.

If your career goal wasn’t to be a Project Manager (PM) or you haven’t read the 900+ page tome, Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) and you don’t include “PMP” among your professional credentials, you might not think of yourself as a trained project management specialist. Yet, you find yourself making schedules, dealing with budgets and reporting success metrics to stakeholders. What’s going on?

You are not the first person to have fallen into the role of an Accidental Project Manager. As hierarchy is becoming more horizontal and organization charts have more dotted lines than solid lines, the administration of work is no longer reserved for trained specialists. For all intents and purposes, work is comprised of projects and projects need to be managed…by someone.

Accidental Project Managers typically fall into two groups:

1.Those who are managing projects but don’t think of themselves as PMs (i.e., pretty much everyone) and

2.Those who have fallen into a more official PM role because of their natural aptitude or inclinations

No matter which group you fall into, you can increase your effectiveness and work satisfaction by brushing up on certain project management essentials. An Accidental Project Manager would be eager and motivated to learn. Such a manager requires some sort of accelerated learning in order to become more confident at doing project management. A fortunate project manager, would be sent to do a project management course ranging from five days (typical project management methodology course) to six months with a certificate at the end. If you don’t have this type of training, you should consider enrolling in a Project Management course. You’ll be surprised and what you will learn and how much more effective it will make you.

Surya Ganduri is a member of the faculty at Executive Education at Rutgers School of Business Camden. He teaches the Project Management Certificate program and provides one-on-one support to participants throughout the program. This certificate course is ideal for learning the basics or project management or for those who are studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. The program also fulfills the required project management education hours for PMP certification. 

The program is available for individual enrollment for an online self-paced course.  It is also available as a customized onsite or virtual program for your organization.