Managing a project provides considerable opportunities for self-development, but these can be lost if you become too immersed in delivering the project to remember that you will move on to other work once it concludes.

For many managers, taking responsibility for a project is a time-bounded task with clear objectives and a fixed budget. A project usually involves managing staff, finance, operations and information across the boundaries of departments and functions, with complicated interactions and difficult situations. There is usually a strategic dimension, in ensuring that the project continues to align with organisational objectives and directions. Thus the project manager's overview of the project is similar to the chief executive's view of the whole organisation.

There is an opportunity to use the experience of managing a project to develop yourself for a more senior role, and to demonstrate, through successful outcomes and evaluation, that you are prepared for such a role.

11.1 Personal self-evaluation

You could also carry out a personal self-evaluation, to contribute to your own development as a project manager. You can develop a list of questions to evaluate your own performance:

  • Were the project objectives achieved?
  • Did the project stay within budget?
  • How were problems that occurred during the project been resolved?
  • What could you have done differently to improve the final result?
  • What do your colleagues feel about the results of the project?
  • How good is your current sponsor relationship and the relationship with other stakeholders?
  • Will your sponsor recommend you to colleagues?
  • Has your sponsor asked you to undertake additional work?
  • What have I learnt from managing this project?
  • What skills/competences could I develop to help me with future projects?

Some of the information you will need might be obtained from your colleagues and project team, such as:

  • To what extent did I contribute to achieving the project objectives through the way in which I managed the project?
  • What specific actions did I take which helped us to meet the project objectives?
  • What did I do that hindered us in achieving the project objectives?
  • What might I have done that I didn't do to help us to achieve the project objectives?
  • Would you appoint me to a similar role in future?
  • Would you choose to work with me in similar roles in future?
  • Would you recommend me to colleagues?

Some of these questions can be usefully asked from an early stage in the project to review the working relationships within the team. Other questions relate to the final outcomes and answers will be coloured by the extent to which the project is considered successful. Many of the questions will need to be adapted for use in a particular setting.

It can be lonely managing a project; and it can be difficult to seek feedback about your own performance if the team are new and lack confidence, or if the situation requires you to take a strong lead. Consider asking a senior manager in your organisation to act as your mentor for the duration of the project. This should not be someone who has a strong personal stake in the project, but someone who can help you learn from what happens as the process unfolds. Share with your mentor your plans to use the project for personal development, and ask her or him to help you make the most out of the opportunities the project offers. You might find it helpful to draw up the framework of a personal development plan, indicating some targets for development and identifying how you will know that you have reached them. You might also want to collect evidence of your achievements, to produce as you pursue new career options.