Project Management

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Topics: New Practitioners, Organizational Project Management, PMO
Advocating the Value of Project Manager in the Face of Resistance
"Why do we even need a Project Manager?"
I am a contractor for a company who is at the early stages of integrating project management practices. There's resistance by many who say that they do not need a project manager or that they will decide when they need a project manager for their project. I want to help my manager to champion her mission to establish project management best practices. What are some ways or things that I can say to explain why a project needs a PM even if it's in a 'holding' pattern or the person thinks they can self PM while doing all of their regular non PM job? And how do you help delineate the role of Product Manager and Project Manager? I ask this last question because they are the most resistant and almost seem to be in competition with the Project Manager Director.
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Kimberly -

If the company has well established product management roles and processes and most of what they do is product management lifecycle related, then a lot of PM work falls under the existing work being done by the product managers and other leaders.

However, if they are experiencing issues related to the lack of PM practices or consistent standards, then I'd focus the "sell" efforts on solving those issues.

At a previous company, we started up a PMO. We communicated that we would help with cross-functional projects and could provide guidance if people needed help on other projects. This was a good start. Over time, some groups started involving us in their projects so that they could have more time for other work, and a couple of people who were running departmental projects ended up joining our team.

I don't know if this would work where you are. Look for the areas where the other organizations will admit to needing help. In my case, there were some that wanted to control their projects and felt that using our team would lessen their control. When it came to cross-functional projects, they often felt frustrated with their lack of control, before we started, so it was an area where we could step in, keep them informed, and help them feel like they had more control than they did previously.
This is not uncommon at all. I have heard teams claim before that if they didn't have to report to functional or project managers, they would be a lot more effective.

A few rationale that I find helps:

- A PM is a specialist who is a SME in their field. It is often more efficient to have a SME responsible for tasks related directly to their area of expertise, than have many others become experts in every knowledge area as needed.

- PMs may be less biased than the performing teams because we don't have that emotional attachment to how work is planned and we can challenge assumptions. This is one reason for resistance though. The technical content is their baby, and nobody wants to be told their baby is ugly.

- PMs can also take a lot of administrative tasks such as status charts, off the teams' workload. We can plan the meetings, compile the data, report to stakeholders, raise issues, etc.

- PMs can prevent scope creep. Customers sometimes try to ask the systems designers to make changes outside the approved scope. The designers will often accept those without question. We can be a gatekeeper to ensure the requests go through the right process, and have the uncomfortable conversation with the customer ourselves.

I have had some victories in this regard where over time people accepted that I'm there to help and not look over their shoulders. Some nuts are harder to crack than others however.
The answer in in your opening line "Why do we even need a Project Manager?". What problem are you hoping to solve? Are the projects delivered over budget, delayed beyond established completion dates, is quality lacking? If there is no problem to solve why are you hoping to implement a solution (thus creating a problem)?

Project management is a risk response - it should not be a mindless process for process sake. Undertake a project delivery analysis, identify risks and potential enhancements, determine how to best mitigate and implement.
The measures may include project management processes and even a PMO but don't start with the solution, start by defining the problem
Project manager is a role. Then, the key is to understand if they have concerns about the role or about to hire a person to perform the role. With that said, they want or not, project management activities are always there. Every person in this world is performing project management activities from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. The difference with using it into initiatives is the degree of formality.
I do agree with Kiron. Sergio made a valid point as well.

as to your question how to distinguish project and product manager, I see the product manager more as a program manager and a sponsor getting support from a bunch of project managers, depending on the project type along the product lifecycle.

Looking at sponsor role and program mgr role as customers of the project managers can help to avoid conflicts (as always: clear role descriptions are key).

And yes, often sponsors/program mgr could do or have done projects by themselves. But now they can benefit from delegating certain work to others, manage multiple projects in parallel while staying in control and integrate all the components.

Hi Kimberly,

At the highest level, you want to build a situation, as much as possible, where teams are asking for project/program/portfolio management support rather than you convincing them they need it.

I would treat this process as a change management effort. What is the change you believe is needed, what is the impact of this change, understand the resistance, define the change so people understand the new value they will gain, roll out the change with strong communication.

For each of these steps, be clear on the motivation you and your manager has. People know you both are invested in having more project management but may treat your suggestions as just ways to get longer term job rather than helping the company. So being up front with your multiple interests is a good way to build trust.

As Peter Rapin said above, it is key to identify the problem this role will solve and communicating it in the other person's voice (ie how will your efforts alleviate the Product Manager's challenges without undermining them or undercutting their power/responsibility - they'll want to see how this partnership works). Review in this manner with all relevant stakeholders and think through how project management would help them.

And then go through the rest of the change steps once people believe there is a value to them.

Note, your manager wants to "establish project management best practices" - this implies that ANYONE can do these practices, your manager just wants the stuff being done to be done better which will ultimately help the company. This is an excellent approach because as everyone else realizes there is work to do this properly, they will often be very willing to let someone else do this work rather than do it themselves.

I've thought a little more about the question "Why do we even need a Project Manager?" and I'd like to add to my answer.

The "short" answer is that they don't need a project manager.

But they do need someone who has the time, training, and experience to:
- organize and coordinate cross-functional team work
- help identify and manage risks and issues
- document and manage the project scope and schedule
- communicate progress
- resolve project conflicts
- schedule and facilitate project meetings, working sessions, and launches
- etc...

Another question consider is "Why do they need YOU as a project manager?" What do you bring to the table that they couldn't get from any other employee that has extra time to manage a project?
Most managers, especially senior managers, understand that finance and human management are important endeavours for their organization.

Ask them who will do the project finance and human management.

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