January 23rd, 2013 | Comment
I posed the question, “What would your project look like without a project manager?” on Facebook recently and received some interesting (and disheartening) responses:
“More profitable” – Builder/Contractor
“Quicker, and on budget! ” – Information Architect
“Fun” – Web Developer
“Less Italian” – Snarky ex-boyfriend’s attempt at being funny
The only person who had a single positive thing to say about the Project Management discipline was an Account Director I used to work with. But, I think we can chalk that up to the numerous times I reminded him that his project actually had a budget and clients should probably pay the agency for the work we do.
This negative response got me thinking: When did holding your team – and your clients! – accountable to the parameters of a project become equivalent to being a time-and-money-wasting buzzkill?
I think the reason for this doubt may be because many people equate project management with process. Follow this plan. Submit your time sheet every Friday. Go through two rounds of reviews. Don’t build without requirements. Attend this kickoff. Put a cover sheet on your TPS report. And on and on it goes. Project Managers end up coming across as a horrible mix of the know-it-all who always sat in the front row of class and your mother nagging you to clean your room. And who wants to waste budget dollars on that sort of person?
Perhaps there is something to that interpretation, and I’ve certainly met a few project managers who let their love for process go to their head and get in the way of progress. But, for the sake of our own sanity and our client’s goals, what if we approach this in a different way? What if we stop seeing the directives, emails, status meetings, and task lists as a burden, but as an opportunity to be more accountable to our team members and our clients? So, project managers move from the nagging mother to the gatekeeper and (if necessary) enforcer who ensures that we’re honoring our commitments.
That’s the kind of process that I can get behind, and that I wholeheartedly support as an integral part of any successful project. One thing that stuck out for me when I interviewed at PJA was the hunger that each person had for this sort of accountability. They wanted someone behind them, gently nudging them to get things done right and holding them to the high standards already in place here. They welcomed suggestions for improvement, meeting invites, and even reminders to get their time submitted.
More importantly, the project managers are not the sole owners of accountability either. It comes from all levels – all disciplines – and usually (hopefully) culminates in a satisfied client, work that we’re proud to show off, and an enthusiasm to tackle the next hard project.
So, what would your project look like without a project manager? Hopefully the answer is “I don’t know, because I’ve never had to go through that horror. Now, where’s my project plan!?”