Project Management

Project Management Central

Please login or join to subscribe to this thread

Topics: Career Development, New Practitioners
Project Manager Perceptions
Defining the roles/responsibilities and value of a project manager is not too difficult when we use PMI based descriptors. However, what we see in the field for such titled professionals varies dramatically. To the extent that it often creates elevated debates on the topic, as one’s perception of the roles/responsibilities and value of a PM are typically taken from their interaction with resources so named. Stated differently, there are countless sub-type roles of project managers, but yet most carry the same formal title, thus creating dialectic truths and confusion.

For example, when you have a non-empowered, non-accountable “PM titled” resources on a project, it’s understandable that the perceptions of observers will be highly slanted towards viewing PM’s as A) schedule trackers, B) communication relayers, C) managers in name only, and the like. We then have over-the-top agilest whose perspectives of “relegating us to a case study in antiquation,” are well known.

Recognizing the “image problems” we have in our profession, how would you quantify our value to the uninformed? Please state it in the following two categories:

- Standard Value Propositions

- Extradoniary Value Propositions (i.e., value to the enterprise/organization that goes beyond the standard tangible statements)
Sort By:
Page: 1 2 3 next>
George -

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the credibility (or lack thereof) which folks place on the title has a lot more to do with their personal experiences to date than with any formal roles & responsibilities documentation or value propositions/statements.

I've always felt that the elevator pitch for our profession was bringing predictability to uncertainty when implementing change, but that looks great on a bumper sticker or coffee cup and won't change hearts and minds the way personal experiences will.

This is why it is so critical that each PM wearing that title strive to overcome any such perceptions so that stakeholders are left with positive impressions.

Kiron
...
1 reply by George Freeman
Aug 19, 2020 10:57 AM
George Freeman
...
Kiron,

Your elevator pitch “bringing predictability to uncertainty when implementing change,” in my opinion, encapsulates the quintessential qualities of a project manager. I say this, as the following statements would characterize such a PM:

- They are “Strategic Change Agents.”

- They are “Accountable for Project Success” and “Empowered,” as one cannot truly be an implementer of change without these qualities.

- They have “Domain-Focused Business Management Skills” (i.e., a degree of), as one would not have much ability to bring predictability to uncertainty without knowledge of the engaged domains.

Unfortunately, these three (and other) points always seem to create controversy due to one’s underlining “world view of project management,” hence the narratives that skew our value.
Sad as it may be my personal experience is that what most people are looking for to justify PM value is "let me do that for you" and "don't worry about it, I'll get it done for you". As we know what engages people is the simple "what's in it for me". All the hard/soft/squishy skill a PM might have is of little consequence for the average stakeholder if they do not hear that they can relax while somebody gets it done.
Aug 18, 2020 2:38 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
George -

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the credibility (or lack thereof) which folks place on the title has a lot more to do with their personal experiences to date than with any formal roles & responsibilities documentation or value propositions/statements.

I've always felt that the elevator pitch for our profession was bringing predictability to uncertainty when implementing change, but that looks great on a bumper sticker or coffee cup and won't change hearts and minds the way personal experiences will.

This is why it is so critical that each PM wearing that title strive to overcome any such perceptions so that stakeholders are left with positive impressions.

Kiron
Kiron,

Your elevator pitch “bringing predictability to uncertainty when implementing change,” in my opinion, encapsulates the quintessential qualities of a project manager. I say this, as the following statements would characterize such a PM:

- They are “Strategic Change Agents.”

- They are “Accountable for Project Success” and “Empowered,” as one cannot truly be an implementer of change without these qualities.

- They have “Domain-Focused Business Management Skills” (i.e., a degree of), as one would not have much ability to bring predictability to uncertainty without knowledge of the engaged domains.

Unfortunately, these three (and other) points always seem to create controversy due to one’s underlining “world view of project management,” hence the narratives that skew our value.
I think Project Manager is defined by what a person with that title is authorized or empowered to do rather than what one is supposedly held responsible or accountable for. Many PMs are told they are responsible for 'project delivery' and are portrayed as such to stakeholders however when you drill down you find that there is little, if any, underlying authority to make it so. When considering a PM assignment my question is always - "what authority will I have to make things happen?"

You very quickly recognize if you are in fact a PM versus administrator, conduit, or figurehead.
...
1 reply by George Freeman
Aug 19, 2020 1:03 PM
George Freeman
...
Hi Peter,

In my view, a PM needs to be “Accountable” and “Empowered” as they are mutually inclusive, that is, they cannot exist independently of each other – at least in the quintessential sense of the role. Stated differently, there is almost always a collision of responsibility that leads to mayhem when these two qualities “are viewed as” or “treated as” mutually exclusive.

I like to say:

- If it is unclear whether you are directing or wearing the reins of a project, then bite down as there might be a “bit” of truth to your concern.
Aug 19, 2020 12:44 PM
Replying to Peter Rapin
...
I think Project Manager is defined by what a person with that title is authorized or empowered to do rather than what one is supposedly held responsible or accountable for. Many PMs are told they are responsible for 'project delivery' and are portrayed as such to stakeholders however when you drill down you find that there is little, if any, underlying authority to make it so. When considering a PM assignment my question is always - "what authority will I have to make things happen?"

You very quickly recognize if you are in fact a PM versus administrator, conduit, or figurehead.
Hi Peter,

In my view, a PM needs to be “Accountable” and “Empowered” as they are mutually inclusive, that is, they cannot exist independently of each other – at least in the quintessential sense of the role. Stated differently, there is almost always a collision of responsibility that leads to mayhem when these two qualities “are viewed as” or “treated as” mutually exclusive.

I like to say:

- If it is unclear whether you are directing or wearing the reins of a project, then bite down as there might be a “bit” of truth to your concern.
Totally agree.

However, not always the reality. This situation is especially problematic when the team, and other stakeholders, know that the PM has very limited authority. "Let us know" and "Can you check and confirm" becomes the response to most decisions, direction and instruction.

Having the authority to meet the responsibilities does not mean the PM is omnipotent. (S)he has to be accountable to the team, the stakeholders, the project and the corporate hierarchy FOR THE RESULTS of the decisions.
This leads to something that has been discussed here at least a million times and that is the subject matter expertise of the PM.

Projects may have cross-functional teams but usually there are relevant lines of work for each project. If the PM is not a good expert in one of those lines of work then he/she would be perceived more like a tracker, reporter, facilitator and not a real leader. The level of formal authority he has can't change this fact too much.

In my opinion true leadership does not mean engaging others to make decisions and perform the work. The leader must use his/her own expertise to make the decisions or review and validate the proposed decisions made by others. This does not mean that the leader must be the best worker it means that the leader needs a good mix of technical and managerial knowledge and skills.
...
1 reply by Peter Rapin
Aug 23, 2020 10:46 AM
Peter Rapin
...
With all due respect Adrian, leadership by definition is leading others towards the objective - that means "engaging others to make decisions and perform the work" - in other words, delegating. If the leader takes on the work and the decisions then (s)he is not 'leading' but 'doing'.

On another note, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) tend to be very focused on their subject (discipline), sometimes blind to the challenges of others with a feeling of discipline importance and priority. One of the leaders function is to integrate the SMEs so that the outcome is not skewed towards one discipline, ie; the structure is perfect but the mech/elect/instrumentation/IT is substandard.

Personally I would be concerned if I was a mechanical SME on a project where the PM (leader) is the structural SME. Seems there would be motivation and opportunity for bias, at least the perception of bias.

Ideally the PM has a better chance of success if (s)he has a technical background versus strictly managerial. However, I am not convinced that this is essential for project delivery.
Aug 23, 2020 9:12 AM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
...
This leads to something that has been discussed here at least a million times and that is the subject matter expertise of the PM.

Projects may have cross-functional teams but usually there are relevant lines of work for each project. If the PM is not a good expert in one of those lines of work then he/she would be perceived more like a tracker, reporter, facilitator and not a real leader. The level of formal authority he has can't change this fact too much.

In my opinion true leadership does not mean engaging others to make decisions and perform the work. The leader must use his/her own expertise to make the decisions or review and validate the proposed decisions made by others. This does not mean that the leader must be the best worker it means that the leader needs a good mix of technical and managerial knowledge and skills.
With all due respect Adrian, leadership by definition is leading others towards the objective - that means "engaging others to make decisions and perform the work" - in other words, delegating. If the leader takes on the work and the decisions then (s)he is not 'leading' but 'doing'.

On another note, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) tend to be very focused on their subject (discipline), sometimes blind to the challenges of others with a feeling of discipline importance and priority. One of the leaders function is to integrate the SMEs so that the outcome is not skewed towards one discipline, ie; the structure is perfect but the mech/elect/instrumentation/IT is substandard.

Personally I would be concerned if I was a mechanical SME on a project where the PM (leader) is the structural SME. Seems there would be motivation and opportunity for bias, at least the perception of bias.

Ideally the PM has a better chance of success if (s)he has a technical background versus strictly managerial. However, I am not convinced that this is essential for project delivery.
Hi Peter,

While the PM's subject matter expertise is not essential for the project delivery this attribute is very important for the way the PM is being perceived by others. And that's true especially for the team members but also for the other stakeholders.

I am saying this from experience, if the PM is not an expert in a relevant line of work for the project then he is not going to be perceived as a leader by the project team members. Also the project sponsor and the business users would often bypass him and would go directly to the real decision maker.

Regarding delegation, with all due respect, I don't agree with your definition, but I admit that I may be wrong. For me delegation is only when you are responsible for doing something you can do it yourself but you choose to ask someone else to do it on your behalf.

I will try to give an example:

Imagine a software project where you have, among others, a PM, a software architect and some developers. When the software architect is making software architecture decisions he will not need any delegation from the PM. The PM may ask the architect to make those decisions but since this is not his responsibility this is not really delegation. Asking someone to do a work is not always delegation.

If the PM asks the Software Architect to attend on his/her behalf a meeting with the stakeholders regarding the management of the project then this is delegation.

Delegation is also when the software architect asks a developer to make some architectural decisions on his behalf.

Delegation is not mandatory. A PM can delegate nothing and still the technical decisions may be taken by relevant SMEs and not by himself.
...
2 replies by George Freeman and Peter Rapin
Aug 23, 2020 10:49 PM
George Freeman
...
Adrian,

The discussion that is occurring here aligns to the point of my question, that is, we all have different perceptions of what a project manager “is,” based on our interaction with resources of that title. In fact, your perception of a PM appears to be what I stated, A) a schedule tracker, B) a communication relayer, and C) a manager in name only. Hence, the image problem we have in our profession.

Some Thoughts:

- A traditionally chartered project manager is empowered by executive management and acts in proxy of them. Thus, your statement that a project sponsor or business user would go around them to the “real decision maker” flies against accountability principles. To that point, a business user taking that route in my world would be making a CLM (i.e., a Career Limiting Move).

- As it relates to delegation: When an empowered and accountable PM executes their project plan (regardless of how the plan was created), he/she is delegating those tasks to their team. That is the nature of an accountable position. I understand that principle seems inequitable, but it’s a functional reality in most organizational structures.

Adrian, I have worked in the software industry for four decades and very much understand your thoughts and opinions regarding project managers, architects, technical project leads, and the like. I’m a business and IT architect who is also a project manager – and proud of it. However, I recognize from experience and the wisdom of the profession that being both at the same time is problematic.

Your experience is entirely valid and understood, but I would like you to consider is that the project managers you have experienced, or at least the ones you have described, are functionally acting as project coordinators or administrators and not the traditional (PMI based) project manager.
Aug 24, 2020 2:11 PM
Peter Rapin
...
In my mind 'delegation' relates to authority not the assignment of work or tasks unless that assignment includes the authority to make decisions.

As an example, if I have the authority to commit $1m towards delivery of the project I can delegate all or some of that authority down the line or to select SMEs. I may chose to delegate $500k to may second in command and (s)he in turn delegate $200k to his second. However, I retain full accountability (for the $1m).

In terms of technical authorities, the SMEs gets their delegated authority through their organizational structure. However any decision that impacts on the project (cost, time, etc) must also get authority from the PM. The SMEs should not have the authority to deliver a task incompatible with the project objectives.
Aug 23, 2020 7:26 PM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
...
Hi Peter,

While the PM's subject matter expertise is not essential for the project delivery this attribute is very important for the way the PM is being perceived by others. And that's true especially for the team members but also for the other stakeholders.

I am saying this from experience, if the PM is not an expert in a relevant line of work for the project then he is not going to be perceived as a leader by the project team members. Also the project sponsor and the business users would often bypass him and would go directly to the real decision maker.

Regarding delegation, with all due respect, I don't agree with your definition, but I admit that I may be wrong. For me delegation is only when you are responsible for doing something you can do it yourself but you choose to ask someone else to do it on your behalf.

I will try to give an example:

Imagine a software project where you have, among others, a PM, a software architect and some developers. When the software architect is making software architecture decisions he will not need any delegation from the PM. The PM may ask the architect to make those decisions but since this is not his responsibility this is not really delegation. Asking someone to do a work is not always delegation.

If the PM asks the Software Architect to attend on his/her behalf a meeting with the stakeholders regarding the management of the project then this is delegation.

Delegation is also when the software architect asks a developer to make some architectural decisions on his behalf.

Delegation is not mandatory. A PM can delegate nothing and still the technical decisions may be taken by relevant SMEs and not by himself.
Adrian,

The discussion that is occurring here aligns to the point of my question, that is, we all have different perceptions of what a project manager “is,” based on our interaction with resources of that title. In fact, your perception of a PM appears to be what I stated, A) a schedule tracker, B) a communication relayer, and C) a manager in name only. Hence, the image problem we have in our profession.

Some Thoughts:

- A traditionally chartered project manager is empowered by executive management and acts in proxy of them. Thus, your statement that a project sponsor or business user would go around them to the “real decision maker” flies against accountability principles. To that point, a business user taking that route in my world would be making a CLM (i.e., a Career Limiting Move).

- As it relates to delegation: When an empowered and accountable PM executes their project plan (regardless of how the plan was created), he/she is delegating those tasks to their team. That is the nature of an accountable position. I understand that principle seems inequitable, but it’s a functional reality in most organizational structures.

Adrian, I have worked in the software industry for four decades and very much understand your thoughts and opinions regarding project managers, architects, technical project leads, and the like. I’m a business and IT architect who is also a project manager – and proud of it. However, I recognize from experience and the wisdom of the profession that being both at the same time is problematic.

Your experience is entirely valid and understood, but I would like you to consider is that the project managers you have experienced, or at least the ones you have described, are functionally acting as project coordinators or administrators and not the traditional (PMI based) project manager.
...
2 replies by Adrian Carlogea and Peter Rapin
Aug 24, 2020 1:53 PM
Peter Rapin
...
We may be getting to the crux of the matter. The title Project Manager is being applied too widely. I see a distinct difference between a Project Coordinator, a Project Administrator and a Project Manager. The industry, for numerous reasons, miss-titles the various project roles and applies the term Manager where there is no management function.

Manager: a person who has control and directs (dictionary definition)

There is also a reluctance in the industry to recognize that the management of projects is a subject matter and that a true Project Manager is an SME. One of the main challenges of the PM is to integrate all the other SMEs so as to effectively achieve the project goals. It would probably be beneficial if the PM has some knowledge of each subject in order to effectively communicate but that knowledge would not give him authority over technical matters - that rests with the technical SMEs. However the technical SMEs do not have authority over project matters (scope, cost, time, risk, etc).

The Project Charter or Project Plan should clearly identify roles and responsibility and project success is enhanced when the team (and stakeholders) understand and respect those roles.
Aug 24, 2020 3:14 PM
Adrian Carlogea
...
"your perception of a PM appears to be what I stated, A) a schedule tracker, B) a communication relayer, and C) a manager in name only. Hence, the image problem we have in our profession."

This is true only if the PM is not also a SME in relevant line of work for the project.

" As it relates to delegation: When an empowered and accountable PM executes their project plan (regardless of how the plan was created), he/she is delegating those tasks to their team."

To be honest I may not understand the meaning of the word delegation. For me it means doing someone else's work at the request of that person. Delegation is not mandatory managers may choose not to delegate anything to their teams but this does not mean that the team members would not perform those tasks.

In order to perform some tasks you don't delegation from anyone if performing those tasks is your responsibility. Delegation, in my opinion, is only when you are doing someone else's tasks on that person's behalf.
Page: 1 2 3 next>  

Please login or join to reply

Content ID:
ADVERTISEMENTS
ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors