Project Management

You Are Not (Always) a Problem Solver

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

If I were to say that one of the most important functions a project manager had to perform was to solve problems on the project, I suspect that most of you would agree with me. But I’m not going to start this piece by saying that. Instead, I’m going to suggest that problem solving shouldn’t always be the project manager’s job. At least not directly.

I’ll fully accept that many PMs solve problems every day, and I’m not going to tell you that’s the wrong thing to do. But I believe that too often, project managers solve problems themselves when a better approach would be to work with the team to enable problem solving to occur collectively. It’s the responsibility of everyone on the project to help solve problems, and collaborative solutions are likely to result in better outcomes than if just one person is involved in the process.

Let’s not take that too far; if the team is complaining that a stakeholder is being too pushy and not letting them get on with their work, then the PM should have a quiet word with that stakeholder and ask them to back off. That’s a simple problem with an obvious solution that clearly falls within the scope of the project manager. But what if the problem is that a resource who was promised to the team isn’t available? Is that also only up to the project manager to solve?

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Very funny, Scotty. Now beam down my clothes.