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Importance of Boots on the Ground Experience

In this article I’m going to dive into how good project managers are not only good at the project management technical areas such as budget, schedule and scope management but also experienced in their field enough that they can draw on those experiences to make good decisions that affect their teams.

When I was first getting into project management I decided to enroll in a project leadership certification program. I was surrounded by peers who, like me, were just starting out in project management. One mantra that I found was commonly repeated among the instructors was that project management skills were transferrable across industries. While at their very core, they are transferrable (budgets, schedules and scope are common to all projects), the planning, execution and controlling of projects is vastly different from industry to industry. This is where having that “boots on the ground” experience is vital to becoming a successful project manager.

The significance of having that experience is two-fold. One, you as a leader can call upon your experience to learn from mistakes and successes to make sound decisions affecting your project. Having been in these situations before allows you to navigate difficult situations with confidence that you are making the right decision. Two, you can directly empathize with your project team, having been in their shoes before. This is paramount to establishing solid relationships with your team members. Knowing what they are feeling and going through as part of the project, you can adjust your communication style to ensure that they know you are behind them and that you’re doing all you can to make sure they can do all they can.

While it’s very important to trust in your team and let them do what they are paid to do, it is good to have that over-arching vision and guidance from the project manager who has been there and done that before. Strong teams always look to experienced leadership to provide mentorship and guidance on the way to delivering success. Having those leaders be experienced in the situations the team is going through is invaluable to delivering a successful project.

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