Accidental Project Managers


The term and title “Project Manager” is used generally to describe anyone given responsibility to complete a project. If a person does not have knowledge in project management discipline and does not have a high level of responsibility and authority then they are better described as a project administrator, coordinator, facilitator, expeditor, Seismic Field Operations Supervisor (SFOS), or assistant project manager. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) describes them as “Accidental Project Managers.”


It is important to understand that Project Management is not "common sense"; there is much more to sound project management than your "gut feeling" or intuition. The protocols, methods and management processes for successful project management are not something that are self-evident.


I am amazed how many companies and individuals endeavor to run big budget projects with no dedicated project managers. Somehow the benefits(1) of Project Management Best Practices seem to completely pass them by until they discover the project has failed to meet the authorized AFE and associated agreed to deliverables; the consequences are obvious.


(1)  It appears to me that the “benefits of Project Management Best Practices completely pass them by …” because they never practiced it; their primary line of business is not project management, but i.e. data acquisition, approvals, mapping, modeling, designing seismic programs, etc. A great leap for many is the realization that what they do has a name, and that name is Project Management.

 Here are some statements claiming the use of “Project Management and Project Managers”:


Œ “…Our project managers started their careers in the field getting their hands dirty and worked their way up to supervisory positions over X number of years….; they have first hand thorough experience in every aspect of seismic operations…; superior technical knowledge of recording system….; they excel in estimating cost….; managing the project timeline to meet your acquisition goals…” 

 “….project management team has extensive experience in all aspects of seismic project management, from government approvals, mapping….to trades procurement and HSE” 

Ž “Project Management….pre-scouting, preparing and evaluating bids, AFE/Cost Estimates…..” 

Interestingly enough, not one of the above statements mentions knowledge and experience in the project management discipline; such as: “Our project managers are trained in project management discipline with a minimum of 5 years experience and posses thorough knowledge in every aspect of seismic operations as supervisors over X number of years.....”

In many organizations, people are assigned to the projects because they are available, not because they are necessarily the right choice for the project. Assigning the wrong person (project manager) to a project just because he/she is available makes even less sense. For one thing, it creates the illusion that the project is properly staffed simply because a “body” is in position. I witnessed numerous projects, worth over $10M, "run" by field administrator, permit man, cat push or drill push.(2) Our industry has courses for permit men, HSE, SFOS, etc., etc., but for some “unknown reason” we do not "care" who is running our projects.


(2) These people (Accidental Project Managers) are not managing projects, but merely supervising people and reporting (not controlling) the project progress; simply having a title of "Project Manager"  doesn't necessarily mean that they are performing true project manager duties.


The best project managers you can possibly have on your seismic projects would be those who first, are trained in project management discipline and second, have experience in seismic operations; experience in seismic operations alone is simply not enough to successfully manage seismic projects.

Moving projects from approval to success takes a well-coordinated team effort. Project manager and the operations manager(3) should form the nucleus of the team. When they work seamlessly together, they can affect a great deal of positive change within an organization.

(3) In most Project Management Companies (Geo Land and Field Services) AFE's are done by Operations Managers;  they also run "supervise" the project. In most cases they are functional managers, not project managers. They rely on their accidental project managers (supervisors, permit men, drill push, cat push, field administrator, etc.). This combination leads to 73% of seismic projects failures.

The most dangerous Accidental Project Managers to any organization are:

1.       The Know-It-All Project Manager:

This project manager typically thinks he knows everything, he ignores the expert knowledge by a specialists; instead of asking the expert opinions, the know-it-all PM is most likely to say cheerleader phrases like “Come on guys. This is easy. I can do it in 2 days. I’m sure you can.”


2.       The Do-It-All Project Manager:

This project manager typically engages in debates with the expert project staff to demonstrate his/her knowledge; will usually appear busy and is present everywhere except in managing the project.


3.       The Abrasive Project Manager:

This project manager works against people instead of working with them; he/she is unnecessarily argumentative, lacks tact, prone to complains and quick to verbal abuse.


4.       The Yes-to-All Project Manager:

This project manager tries to please everyone and say ‘yes’ to all; cannot discern conflicting requests and thus compromises the project’s objectives.


By attending our workshop you will learn ...

  • How to define the Scope of the Project
  • How to Develop a Detailed Project Plan
  • How to Launch the Plan
  • How to Control Project Progress
  • How and why we Close Out the project
  • How to master Microsoft Project software to accomplish all the above

. . . and much more


Changing carrier? No worries. The principals of Project Management Discipline are the same for any industry. The knowledge you gain in our project management workshops is fully transferable and usable in other industries as well. The only thing you must learn is how the other industry operates.





Why MS Project?


Majority of companies use MS Products, such as Word, Excel and Power Point. They are all integrated. For example, you can create Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in Excel and copy it into MS Project or vice-versa.  




We are experts in project management and we know how difficult project management can be.


By attending our workshop you will master the most important elements (relevant to seismic projects) of Microsoft Project software.


 No matter your level of expertise, our unique workshops will help you learn to manage projects more efficiently and ensure that your seismic exploration projects come in on time and on budget with repeated success.





Project Management is a specific management process


and it requires


 specific knowledge and skills



By attending our workshops you will gain this knowledge and confidence to manage any seismic project to its successful completion




"No matter how much you know today, you'll have to know more tomorrow"



Register today ...


... and you will learn how to avoid:


Seven Rules that Guarantee Project Failure




Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership


* * *


We show you 5 critical areas which are essential to change the status of your accidental project managers to become a 


real-world project managers




8 qualifying questions to ask if you outsource the project manager duty to a third party (individual or company).


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