Performers on the Project Stage


Charles Smith

United Kingdom

Identity and Performance

In this article I will propose that people engaged in the management of projects can profitably think of themselves as performers, and the world of projects as the stage on which they play their roles. Performances are highly revealing. It is through their performances that managers establish their reputations. Their credibility is built not on their knowledge (for example of mechanised practices or administrative procedures), but on their actions, making decisions, setting the agenda. Through understanding performance we can also look into matters of identity – the sort of person you must be to put on this or that performance.

This way of thinking can have major implications for project managers. An enriched understanding of what it means to be a professional in the project world (and the sort of project manager you are striving to be) can help individual managers as they learn to perform their roles, and as they make development and career choices.

Example – recovering under threat

As a very short example we can look at the story of Sally, a newly appointed Project Manager in IT development. At first she thinks she is doing very well, but subsequently she realises that a senior manager is spreading doubt about her competence, and undermining her ability to manage effectively. She feels anger and then disappointment, but eventually finds her way forward through a strategy of close engagement with the team, especially those who report to the senior manager in question. She describes her approach as:


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About the Author 

pmwj29-dec2014-Smith-AUTHORCharles Smithflag-uk

United Kingdom

Charles Smith has been researching project management over the last ten years. He has over 30 years’ experience in the engineering and financial services industries, holding management and consulting positions in engineering design, structural dynamics, safety and risk management, project management and organisation change. Originally qualifying as an engineer, Charles also has a degree in psychology, and is a Founder Member of the Association for Business Psychology. Charles can be contacted at [email protected]. For more information, visit http://projectcraft.org.uk