Friday, August 17, 2012

What is a Project Manager?

Response to What is a project manager?

Often PM role is to cope with weaknesses in the current management system.  While you might say just fixing the system is better I think that is often unrealistic.

I see the PM as someone shepherding the project which often means

  1) making sure the pieces proceed properly to meet deadlines (making sure they, or whoever should, make decisions on what to do if things need to be done).  I see the PM often making sure it happens but if the system has a good method that is working fine the PM just watches that.  So if there is good agile software development, the process is working and things are done in order no big surprises sitting around… then fine the PM doesn't have to worry.

   2) dealing with institutional issues so others can focus on doing their jobs.  If the software developers are frustrated with whatever phb action, the PM takes care of it somehow…  That kind of stuff.

   3) improving the system - again this is best done by setting up the system so others can.  This is a bit outside of the scope of the existing project.  The PM (to me) is also responsible for making the system for delivering projects good.  If something new is needed, look at putting it in place.  Develop people as part of this.  Again if management is doing their job this is happening.  Often management isn't though, then I think the PM should.  This is stepping a bit far from what most everyone else thinks though.

  4) coaching people and arranging coaching.  This is probably more for #3 than for meeting the current project needs, but it is also to meet the current project needs.

  5) protect people from blame and give people credit.  Again this is often just dealing with poor current management systems.  Blaming people is ineffective.  If there are failures figure out what is wrong with the system and improve.  When people are trying to blame others (which happens a lot) don't let that be done and instead focus the thoughts on how to improve.  In organizations where business managers run roughshod over others (developers, testers…) don't let them.  In that case communication goes through PM.  If the communication is good then it is better for the developers to communicate directly…

I see communication as part of #1.  It is important.  It becomes even more important as the organization fails at it.  That is often my view the PM is to see where there is weakness and deal with it.  Maybe it means getting more resources.  Maybe it is assuring better test coverage is included.  Maybe it means arguing this project needs to be scoped way down as it isn't a priority given the business needs…  This requires knowledge of the organization, business thinking, software development (for software projects) practices, coaching...

My whole way of think is very Deming based.  So I see improving the system as a big part of everyones role.  It isn't surprising I see it that way for a PM too.

To me the main PM roles are

 #1 manage the existing system to achieve the result for the project
 #2 improve the existing system