Be the Project (Business) Manager that People Think You are

And Get Paid as That!


Project Business Management


By Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany



Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking
they can’t lose. And it’s an unreliable guide to the future”[1]
Bill Gates


The demand for Project Managers with business skills is robustly growing.  However, they face additional challenges, compared with project managers in strictly internal projects and have an increased responsibility for the well-being and the survival of the own organization. Their mindset should reflect this, but also their payment.

A Loss-Making Contractor

It was some years ago that I was hired by a software development company to give project management basics training to their staff. The company was about midsize and we had last been in contact about 15 years earlier. For the case story, let’s call the firm Mosquito, Inc. I thought it was a good feeling to be a guest at the company again, after such a long time, and do a seminar for them.

When Mosquito’s general manager booked me for the class, he requested me to plan some time at the end of the seminar to talk with him about my observations and some other issues. I agreed, knowing what this kind of request means. Managers commonly ask for such additional time, when their companies have a specific problem, or challenge, or a difficult question, hoping that I can provide a solution or an answer from my more distant position. I am booked as a trainer but, as I am there anyway, also am in addition used as a free consultant.

The specific problem became visible during the class and was a topic of repeated discussion among attendees: A troubled customer project. Mosquito had a major client, a professional association that needed to implement a new fee clearance system with its members. These members were small service companies that had to use the system to make their cost calculations more transparent to their customers. Another purpose was to make it easier for tax authorities to assess tax claims based on the services provided by these members.

The main components of the clearance system were a centralized database to which the association members had access, and an ID card the size of a credit card that was owned by the customers and allowed access to their data in the system. The implementation of the system was not a strategic decision by the association or its members, it was a new legal demand on them, and the law had a deadline imposed for the implementation of the system. The deadline was originally not too short, but a lot of time had been lost during requirements identification and clarification. These delays have made the deadline pressing. Another problem: Mosquito, the contractor was about to make a heavy loss, that could grow big enough to jeopardize the existence of the company.

The customer project had been agreed to be performed under a fixed-price contract. It was further agreed to be performed based on the “Agile Manifesto”[2], a document from 2001, which is generally considered the basis of agile approaches. Among its statements are four value assignments:


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Editor’s note: This is the 7th in a series of articles by Oliver Lehmann, author of the book “Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure” (ISBN 9781498722612), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2016. See author profile below.

How to cite this article:
Lehmann, O. (2018), Be the Project (Business) Manager that People Think You are—And Get Paid as That!, PM World Journal, Volume VII, Issue 5, May 2018. https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/pmwj70-May2018-Lehmann-Be-the-Project-Manager-series-article.pdf

About the Author

Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany



Oliver F. Lehmann
, MSc., PMP, is a project management author, consultant, speaker and teacher. He studied Linguistics, Literature and History at the University of Stuttgart and Project Management at the University of Liverpool, UK, where he holds a Master of Science Degree. Oliver has trained thousands of project managers in Europe, USA and Asia in methodological project management with a focus on certification preparation. In addition, he is a visiting lecturer at the Technical University of Munich.

He has been a member and volunteer at PMI, the Project Management Institute, since 1998, and served five years as the President of the PMI Southern Germany Chapter until April 2018. Between 2004 and 2006, he contributed to PMI’s PM Network magazine, for which he provided a monthly editorial on page 1 called “Launch”, analyzing troubled projects around the world.

Oliver believes in three driving forces for personal improvement in project management: formal learning, experience and observations. He resides in Munich, Bavaria, Germany and can be contacted at [email protected].

Oliver Lehmann is the author of the book “Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure” (ISBN 9781498722612), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2016.

To view other works by Oliver Lehmann, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/oliver-f-lehmann/


[1] (Gates, Myhrvold & Rinearson, 1996)

[2] (Beck, K. et al., 2001)