Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.
Organizational change leader or glorified clerk: never has the continuum of possible roles for the project manager seemed quite so wide. Interviews with sponsors, team members and project managers themselves at a number of companies in the last few weeks and months have simply reinforced this. What organizations want is the leader. What many feel they are getting is the clerk.
Unfortunately, I fear that project managers may actually have to shoulder the blame for a lot of this perception. To understand why, however, it’s helpful to step back and take a quick survey of the organizational project landscape.
Without a doubt, projects have become fairly widespread in the organizational heartland. They are the vehicle for change and the enabler of new product developments. Billions are being invested in projects as we speak, with an expectation of a much greater corporate return as a result. The stewards of these investments are the project managers--authorized to spend organizational resources to secure the objectives of the projects.
So what is the common perception of project managers and their role? “They fill out forms.” “They call meetings, issue agendas and write up minutes.” “They ask technical resources for how to solve an issue and they write it up.” “They have status meetings to find out progress and change the length of