Preventing Blame: Balancing the Relationship Between Project Manager and Business Owner

Northeast Florida Chapter

Eddie is a project manager in Saint Augustine, Florida.

The relationship between project manager and business owner (or scrum master and product owner for agile) can be difficult (even contentious) to establish—and easy to damage. Contracts and jobs have been lost because two personalities (with their respective levels of empathy) fail to maintain a consensus on their perceptions of the work—and on what can be achieved by a project team in a given timeline.

Due to the temporary nature of projects, a business owner might interact with several project managers during their tenure over a product. Therefore, the emphasis is often placed on the project manager to build and maintain the relationship by adapting to the business owner’s modus operandi instead of the other way around. Consequently, the PM becomes an easy target for blame should an issue occur, allowing the true cause of the issue to go unaddressed.

To build strong foundations in the relationship and ensure the success of the project, there are a few simple rules to follow that can make a big difference:

1. Define expectations early. A one-on-one meeting (ideally face to face) gives the opportunity for both people to make a first impression. A project manager will benefit by speaking in terms of scope, deliverable and deadline to define for the business owner in detail what is required of them; in return, they will come to understand the …

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