Article overview

If one is an above average Project Manager, someone that understands project management, has the skills to plan a project, build a functioning team, and delivers the approved scope to the satisfaction of the stakeholders, then that project manager can expect to have their workload increase. 

Effective project managers are special. They manage the organization’s political environment, create a productive team environment, as well as sufficient technical and business skills to ask questions and understand the answers.  This can make them easily noticed by management throughout the company. This can be a good thing and a bad thing: Being seen as someone who comes to the rescue – a knight in shining armor.

Company Processes

As project managers that have been employed to support a company’s project objectives, we bring experience to the table that maybe other project managers don’t have. Years, often bring a variety of experiences, especially, when a project manager comes up through the company, or they have a range of experiences in the domain (example, managing software development project, after having been a software engineer, a software test engineer etc.).  

It is easy to fall in the dogma that often becomes a company’s processes and procedures. Sometimes, the project manager is differentiated by their ability to know when to follow process and procedures and when it is necessary to adapt. On occasion we see issues with a company’s way of executing projects as it pertains to internal processes. Those processes that a company-grown project manager may accept as the norm and while a project manager recognizes that the processes are flawed, doesn’t want to rock the boat. “We have done it this way for years.”

Note: The expectations upon the project manager, will depend upon the organization for which the project manager works, along with customer expectations.

Assuming this project manager takes classes and reads books (and experiment with what they have read) to increase their project management knowledge, they may begin to see flaws and hope to change the way projects are executed. It happens. And it is sometimes, or most times met with resistance.

One Win at a Time

On the next project the project manager is assigned, they start to apply some of their new knowledge and begin to recognize roadblocks or at least diversions on the road to success. The project manager may start small, for example, a change to the way of recording the meeting minutes. Keeping management and stakeholders well informed is a critical step to project success. Some members of management and some stakeholders may take note of the improved communication. They may even acknowledge their appreciation to the project manager. This starts the change, and it also starts the knight in shining armor paradox.

Knight in Shining Armor

After a few small wins, the project manager has an audience.  Wins can attract attention. Management, stakeholders, team members and possibly a few other project managers are watching the project manager’s movements and their projects progress. Generally, the audience may be split.  Some want the project manager to succeed, and a few want to see the project manager fail.  You might find this surprising, but it may be interesting to review the Gallup Workplace Report.  Because, if the new processes work everyone will have to execute them. Using the new processes are seen as addition work by some.

As the project does continue to succeed, the project manager can be seen as a knight in shining armor. A knight with the knowledge to take on other ‘issues’ that may or may not be related to their project.

Faux Knight in Shining Armor

We see well-meaning people adopt an attitude “if it needs done, then I will do it” even if their job or position in the company does not define them as the person to solve the problem. I call this absorption and it is part of the much ballyhooed “can-do attitude” upon which many companies thrive.  There is nothing wrong with a can-do attitude. However, when the can-do attitude camouflages an organization’s failures or failings then we are doing the organization and our talent within that organization a disservice.1

On occasion, a project manager may say:” Just give me the information and I will do it”. This is never an option. If a team member is not executing their work, even if the project manager has experience in that area, e.g., Coding. The approved project plan should have an escalation procedure, and this should be applied to improve the team member’s execution.

Another reason for not taking on that work is the project manager can be seen as someone who can fix other issues and help out in that area on other projects. Thus, diluting the effectiveness on their current project. Just remember, some may want to see you fail at introducing new processes and procedures.

Another Trap

Consider a project that is building upon an existing product for a new client. During the execution of this project, discovery of a nonconformance in one of the existing elements of the system. A product already in the market. The scope of this new project was to use this product as manufactured and there is no scope to make the necessary change. But, without a correction of the product this project will not be able to meet the customer expectation. A lot of questions arise: What happens next? Who does it?  While we seek understanding, what happens to the project schedule? Is this the time for an escalation plan? That last one is a trick question; the escalation plan should be in place at the start of the project.

The project manager on the new project wasn’t involved with the project that produced the non-conforming part but may be ask to either re-open the project, possibly without funding, to bring the product up to the conformance spec, possibly making the project manager a knight in shining armor, at the potential cost to the new project success.


A fundamental of project management is planning and addressing risk.The better the plan and risk management efforts conducted by the team under the guidance of the project manager, the more likely the success of the project.This might give an illusion of the project manager a knight or savior, but the truth is, or at least should be, that the project manager sets and environment for team members to productively contribute. Always remember: if the project is successful the team did it. If the project fails, it was the project manager’s fault. That is how management, and the stakeholders will likely view it.

A phenomenon that happens is just the pure action of delivering successful projects can make a project manager a knight in shinning armor. That’s okay. Just use your newly found power carefully.

Project Managers are not meant to be knights in shining armor to anyone or anything except their current project load. If you want to be seen as a knight in shining armor, that’s great and we have no hard feelings about your desires. However, in the time recognition of the importance of sustainability, not just environmentally, but also from the human perspective, it is important not to drain the motivation of the talent. People are not fungible, and one of the attributes demonstrates this, is the resilience and persistence of the individuals. We are not all similarly resilient.  


1Value Transformation LLC: Sponges are not always helpful!