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jonasbn (1153)

jonasbn
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Perl Programmer located in Copenhagen, Denmark. Active member of Copenhagen Perl Mongers.

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Journal of jonasbn (1153)

Sunday August 19, 2007
11:52 PM

On Project Managers

[ #34155 ]

At logicLAB we are aiming at eliminating the term project manager all together. Our experiences with (external) project managers are not good.

It seems as if project managers in the external projects we are involved tend to get a role of secretaries.

Internally we simply cannot afford a secretary, externally I do not mind a secretary, but if the project manager holds some of the following traits, I think the project is better of without the project manager and the secretary role is an unnecessary luxury.

  • Clueless about the purpose of the project
  • Only interested in meeting the deadline
  • Not taking interest in getting the best result under the given circumstances
  • Only calling and running meetings
  • More interested in resource planning and progress than actual project scope and content
  • Not involved in running the project, just delegating everything
  • Not interested in escalating "bad news"
  • or critical issues

If you examine the above bullets some can be turned around to be positive traits of a project manager. But in general I think it is important that a project manager are involved in the project just as much as the participants.

The project manager should act as mediator between the "customer"/requirement stakeholder and the developers.

The projects we are working on for this particular client have often had 2 project managers:

  • a technical project manager
  • and a project manager

Guess what happens to that particular setup.

Anyway they have now proposed a new setup where the technical project manager gets a title of technical lead. When discussing this with a (quite good) project manager at my clients, I emphasized the importance of power in such a structure. As I wrote earlier the project manager has to be the mediator, so the person has to be able to get the stakeholder and technical lead to agree on the scope and contents of the project.

So if we revisit the bad traits, some of the could be positive, if the person playing the role of project manager is the right person.

  • Taking interest in meeting the deadline
  • Not interested in escalating whatever little problem or issue, better to handle the situation within the scope of the project
  • Just calling the meeting, letting the participants run the meetings
  • Delegating work to the right people and domain experts

So my project manager, perhaps the word super should be prefixed, is a person, which has the weight to control the project participants. The person should aim to honor the requirements from the customer, following the guidelines from the technical lead. Some requirements can perhaps not be fulfilled and some technical aspects might require tweaking or simpler solutions due to other project constraints, such as deadline, resources, budget.

I could outline the complete profile for a project manager which could be eligible for working in logicLAB, but we actually try to replace the project manager role with a very small shell script :)

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  • Several years ago, I was working on a project which had project manager and technical project manager (err.. me). It worked very well and we did amazing thinks which would be impossible in organization of that size with just one person as project lead.

    I thought it's a simple matter of splitting one task to two people well. Then after a year or so, we temporarily changed project manager and all hell broke loose. So, it's (so) not a simple matter :-)
    • What mandate did you hold as technical project manager?

      I think it is important that a project has one benevolent dictator. But I have not seen many project managers capable of fulfilling this role.