Good project managers wear many hats

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
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My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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When I first started to manage projects, I had envisioned the role as being similar to that of an orchestra conductor – while not being directly responsible for playing specific instruments, possessing familiarity with the strengths and weaknesses of each, and being instrumental (pun intended) in creating harmonious melodies instead of raucous cacophonies.

This illusion rapidly dissipated after a few days on the job.  I came to realize that project managers need to be like Lon Chaney – the man of a thousand faces.  Here are a few of the roles that a PM might be called on to play in a typical project.

1. Salesperson – Successful PMs need to be able to create a need for and “sell” their customers, stakeholders and team members on decisions or recommendations that may not be popular.

2. Football lineman – A PM must often be the offensive lineman preventing their “quarterbacks” (a.k.a. team members)  from getting tackled by distractions.

3. Coach – Vince Lombardi nailed the essence of effective project management with his quote “Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”

4. Diplomat – PMs are often called upon to help resolve conflicts, negotiate for win-win outcomes and to deliver bad news in a constructive fashion.

5. Historian – PMs should be able to review the past life of their projects, analyze events and derive lessons that can be applicable to future projects.

6. Diagnostician – PMs require the analytical ability and perspective to look beyond symptoms to help identify the root issues that are plaguing their projects.

My guess is that there are probably a hundred other roles that could be part of this list – how many can you add?

(Note: I was wearing my blogger hat in November 2010 when this article was originally published on kbondale.wordpress.com)

Posted on: January 30, 2019 07:52 AM | Permalink

Comments (12)

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I've used the "football lineman" analogy a couple of times myself...in my case, I actually was one in school. I think we can add "translator" to the list, as we're often called upon to help various stakeholder groups come to a mutual understanding of various project issues and risks.

You are absolutely right Kiron.

Your article remind me the Six Thinking Hats technique (6TH) of Edward de Bono.

Thanks for sharing!!

Great points Kiron - Totallu Agree. I like the football lineman one and it’s true.

Thanks Kiron for sharing. Indeed, a PM has many roles and need to learn a myriad of skills, and need to be adaptable to various requirements.

Thanks Rami & Pang, and great addition, Glenn! Good insights, Alok - PMs do need the ability to step outside of their comfort zone by wearing a hat that ISN'T their default.

Kiron, Nice combination and you just hit the right spot, in reality and actually I wear many different hats ;-)

I would like to add to be Psychologist of course not psychiatrist to prescribe medication but to focus on psychotherapy, treating emotional and mental suffering in the team with behavioral intervention.

Kiron, this post is an analogy for 6 thinking hats.
Thanks for sharing

Good points, Kiron. Thanks !

I agree with Riyadh on the 'Psychologist' role.

Good one, Kiron! Agreed!

Thanks Girija & Andrew and good addition, Riyadh, although there might be ethical boundaries we cross by "playing" psychologist with our team members and other stakeholders!

Thanks Kiron,
The orchestra conductor is still a good start. I'm wondering now: is there a PM beside/behind the conductor? Or does he have to do the lineman too from time to time?

I like the diagnostician analogy, and would complement it with a muse role, to inspire new answers from the team.

I would add the captain : always on the bridge in particular when a storm hits.

Thanks Vincent - a muse and a captain are a couple of other good additions to the list!

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