Redefining the PM Role

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.

Go ahead. Ask anyone.

What's the role of a project manager?

Chances are, the answer you will get is "to deliver the scope of the project, on time, on budget and to specification." Period.

And we ask ourselves: "Is this bad?" "Why should we take on more responsibility?" "Don't we have enough on our plates already?"

Project management is a fascinating profession: new people, new challenges, the opportunity to visit far off places. And the ability to severely constrain our responsibility by uttering the mantra, "That's not within the scope!" A line we learn early and repeat often.

And this is a good thing, because project management is about control. Controlling expectations, so that the projects can meet them. Controlling progress, so that we do not exceed our constraints. Controlling scope, so that we are able to manage what we are supposed to deliver.

Scope is the holy grail of the project management profession. It is what we must control, what we must manage, what we must defend. To accommodate something that is out of scope is a truly egregious sin punishable by excommunication and 10 lashes with a wet noodle. But is the objective, really, to manage and deliver according to the scope of the project? Is that how we are being evaluated? Is that what the customer really needs?

In an ideal world, yes. But we don't live in an ideal world. Nor are we likely to…

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