Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Digital Project Management Summit (#DPM2017) for the second time in three years. When I attended for the first time back in 2015 I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of belonging as I interacted with other Summit attendees, listened to the keynotes and participated in the breakout sessions. What many outside of the industry may not understand is that often a digital project manager feels like they are on an island. The Digital Project Management (DPM) Summit is an opportunity to see that you are not alone, and in fact, there is a wide network ready and eager to help overcome any and all obstacles.

Attending this year’s Summit I felt that same sense of belonging, but was able to view it through a slightly different lens. Over the course of the past year I’ve been elevated to a formal leadership position within my company, Discipline Lead. This changed my perspective slightly in that I was listening for nuggets that I could take back to my team and fellow Project Managers (PMs) that will help break down barriers that we all face in projects. What I came away with was a common theme that doesn’t apply to just Digital Project Managers. It applies to projects and businesses of all kinds: People over process. Period. If you take care of the individual (and yourself), projects and deadlines will take care of themselves.


The Summit had several great speakers who imparted wisdom that was often delivered with a mix of humor, sincerity and Brittney Spears memes; items that are always necessary for a solid presentation. There were also times their messages embarrassed me in their simplicity – usually when their points were so obvious that I couldn’t believe I’ve overlooked them for years. I mean, of course I need to invest in my team (happy team = successful projects!) but looking at a day as 8 equal chunks – one of which is LUNCH, why hadn’t that crossed my mind? Often throughout the day, many DPMs will get so busy that lunch is an afterthought and often we look at our colleagues who are leaving for a lunch break with envy. I was reminded that lunch is not a privilege, it’s a necessity. And when you feel you cannot take a break, that is the moment you need one the most.


As people, not just PMs, we need to realize that every interaction you have with someone teaches them how to treat you. If you are the kind of person who will reply to emails late at night, answer your client’s call while watching your kid’s sporting event, or regularly take calls and meetings over lunch, you are teaching your client, vendors and colleagues that they are more important than taking care of your own self; that you will respond at a moment’s notice to any request made. How you treat yourself also teaches others how to treat you. If you take time to step away from a crazy day, if you use your PTO rather than accumulating it all, people realize that you respect yourself and your family and will show you that same respect.


The most common reason that projects fail is because of people – not technology, not design, but people. If we take the time throughout a project to acknowledge the baggage that the team, the client and the PM bring to the project, level set on the expectations, and align on success criteria the better the chance your next project has to succeed. And if each individual on the project team treats the others as the talent (not resource) they are, we’ll elevate each other as humans as well.


Whether you are a CEO, a mid-level exec, or a fellow PM who stumbled upon this article, evaluate your day – how do you interact with others? How are you teaching others to treat you? How are you treating them – and yourself – in return? Do others around you realize that you value and respect them? Do others around you show you value and respect in return? To loosely quote Rob Harr’s DPM presentation: “Treating people like humans should not be a differentiator in business; if we want to be better at our jobs, we need to be better at being humans.” That is truth, people.