Project Management Central

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Topics: Career Development, Leadership, Talent Management
Does your sponsor and/or direct management understand the functions you perform as a project manager?

Is there a gap between what you do and what you are perceived as doing in your role as a project manager within your company/client? What are the consequences of this gap, and what are you doing (or what have you done) to close it?
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Now that is an interesting question and my personal experience is generally no. More often than not I found that the role of the project manager is:

a) filled because the contract states that a project team must be appointed
b) seen as somebody on the inside who is the primary contact and who can be told what to do and must do it, regardless of right or wrong.

So basically a PM without any authority.

The results are always a disaster and low morale because people are 'forced' to do what they know is not right and then having to deal with the consequences.

I moved on since there is no fixing stupid ;)

But I know that this type of situation is dependent on a lot of variables, the biggest probably the type of organization. I found this more prevalent in the vendor space where the primary focus is on the signature and the cheque (not value add) and services such as PM and BA are seen as a necessary evil.

From my experience as project manager I would say yes, usually there is a gap. The dimension of the gap really depends on how mature the organization is (in terms of projects implementation). For one individual only it s very difficult to close that gaop, because it involves a mindset change at the top management level.
I have experienced situations when the PM had to write the functional specifications and perform the UAT tests. I also had to work in the opposite organization: the PM was seen as sales person, somebody who had to sell the projects to the business (as if it wasn t the business who addressed the needs/requirements) and not waste too much time with scope definition (!).
Having the PM involved in execution tasks turns him/her into an operational person, you loose the sense and value of the profession. This beside the fact one person cannot do everything (right). As for the second situation I mentioned, I believe it was a fundamental error. Even so, the organizations rely on project management (and managers) when it comes to implement/change/improve/upgrade.

George -

this often relates to the organization's project management maturity level. More mature organizations will have well defined job descriptions for PM roles, sponsor onboarding programs and other ways of avoiding such expectation gaps.

However, even if you are in a company which is still at an earlier stage in its PM maturity evolution, you can overcome this by meeting with the sponsor and other key stakeholders to understand their expectations for your role and start the process of managing those expectations.


Agree with Kiron. Majority level is important.

If my direct manager is also a project manager (i.e. a PMO director), then my role is understood very well.

In most other cases, the functions of my job are generally not well understood. Sponsors just know whether a project is going well or not. Of course, they learn this from me, so there's no real disadvantage from the knowledge gap between the sponsor and me. If anything, I'd say this knowledge gap tends to work in the project manager's favor. I've witnessed some very unexceptional project managers muddle through their careers because few people knew what they weren't doing.

I agree with Kiron.

My direct manager is usually pretty clear on my function as a PM, since I often need to brief them on how I'm managing the unrealistic expectations of some project sponsor who wants everything right now, and for free. I find it helpful if my manager hears my side of the story first.

It only takes a bit of management reorganization for that to change. I've seen new managers come in, and 100% PM turnover in a year when they either don't support the team, or they think the job of a PM is to count things that are late, make charts about how many things are late, and run meetings for a manager asking why so many things are late.

Completely agree with Kiron.

I have worked with couple for startups & Project management maturity is pretty low. This results in lot of issues cropping during Project cycle.

George, no they don't

Appreciate the views expressed by Anton & Keith.
Agree with points made by Kiron.
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"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those who don't have it."

- George Bernard Shaw