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Archive for the ‘Roles and Responsibilities’ Category

“Hands On” Project Management

Posted by iammarchhare on 26 June 2009

We’ve all seen the ads: “Wanted: Hands-on Project Manager”.  I’ve even seen one that read something to the effect of, “This is not just an admin position.”  And, let’s face facts, shall we?  Some PM positions are basically bureaucratic paper-pusher positions.  So, the sentiment is understandable.  I also believe that most PMs are not like that.

That being the case, why does an ad like the above scream, “Run for your life!  Danger, Will Robinson!  Danger!”?

I truly believe it comes back to different interpretations of “hands on”.  Like I discussed in the post “Why the Role of Project Manager is Different”, “I consider myself pretty ‘hands on’ because I run the project.  I question people’s timesheets.  I ask them why things are taking so long.  I interfere and get them help if needed.  I do EVM calculations whether you ask for them or not (because it helps me do my job).  Do you want me to code?  Then you are not looking for a PM.”

Ron Ponce over at Project Manager Planet puts it in perspective in his 29 May 2009 post “’Just Tell Me What to Do!’ – The Case for Active Project Management”.   He rightly points out that you can publish a Gantt chart of tasks that is a thing of beauty, but developers still might not know what to work on next.  He writes:

“I just want to be told what to do and when,” says Kevin Kinsella, IT Regional Manger based in San Francisco. “The best project managers that I have worked with have been able to keep the project on track by telling me and the team when things were due or what may need my immediate attention.”

Kevin is not alone in his view about what distinguishes a successful project manager from the rest. Successful project managers are able to provide their teams and management with a proactive and hands-on style of managing and communicating that ensures their overall projects will succeed. What I call active project management or APM.

APM as a consistent style is elusive for many project managers because they generally don’t see themselves as passive; even though their team does. In many cases, that disconnect between the project manager and the team is not realized until after the project is completed―and then it’s too late.

That, to me, is being “hands on”.  PMs who code are not “hands on”.  They are distracted.  Unless the project is small, the distraction may cost the project.

One of the leadership principles that I learned early on in the Army that doing grunt work eventually distracts from what you really are getting paid to do: Lead others to accomplish the mission.  Being in charge (I mean, really in charge, not just be handed a title) means you have to be fully engaged on multiple items at the same time.  This was before “multitasking” became a mainstream word.  You are already multitasking, so why take on additional unneeded distractions?

Notice, I said “unneeded”.  In order to meet the deadline, you may have to get down with everyone else and shovel some dirt.  You may have to sacrifice some in your oversight in order to get the main mission accomplished.  However, you do so at the risk of not being in position to observe other activities going on.  Those other activities may or may not come back to bite you.

Those are the trade-offs.  Knowing what trade-offs to make is part of good management skills.  You weigh the risks.  The more project tasks you take on, the fewer management tasks you are doing.

Posted in PM Basics, Risk Management, Roles and Responsibilities | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Different Management Roles on a Project

Posted by iammarchhare on 1 June 2009

TechRepublic did an article under IT Leadership called “Keep the three management roles in an IT project separate” written by Rick Freedman.  Freedman argues that there are 3 roles in every engagement: project manager, technical manager and relationship manager.  Personally, I would have divided this into 2 roles, and some of the comments reflect that as well.

However, in the thread comments, jayl posted a division consisting of project manager, technical manager and business manager/analyst, which is even better, IMO.  I agree with his/her assessment that all 3 need to maintain the relationship.  Furthermore, it points out that at least 2 people need to be filling some combination of these roles.  This is similar to my recent posting that sometimes a PM is also playing a BA.

This is similar to what I posted before that, while a technical project manager can be a legitimate role, but that companies often don’t understand what they are really looking for when they look for a “project manager”.  If you want someone senior that will also code, then you will be left with no one running the project.

Essentially, I see:

1. Relationship manager – product manager, marketing or IT director on internal projects.

2. Project manager – in charge of the project and processes that get it done.

3. Technical manager or technical lead – manages the nitty-gritty low-level technical details.

4. Resource manager – manages personnel, vacations, allocations, performance reviews, etc.

These will likely be combined at some level, especially in smaller shops.

If you have a product manager, then some of the customer relationship management is taken off the others.  However, it is best to be mindful that all this means is that the primary responsibility for the relationship management is shifted, but that does not mean the customer relationship is everyone’s business.

The project manager does what she/he needs to get the project done and within sane parameters of scope, budget and duration.  The project manager is also responsible for putting in place the proper items to ensure quality.

The technical manager/lead makes technical recommendations for direction of project.  This may be an architect, senior developer or senior SME.

The often overlooked role, is the resource manager.  That may or may not be a supervisor or a technical manager.  I distinguish the resource/personnel manager as separate, as often there is a functional manager that people report to in a matrixed environment.  If the organization is projectized, then the functional and project manager role are usually filled by one person.

This still doesn’t eliminate a technical manager, though, and I would balk at combining technical lead, resource manager and project manager on the same project, unless that is the only project going.  Even then, it is going to keep someone really busy and one role is going to distract from the others at various points in the project.  It is still best to separate the roles as much as possible if you want your projects to succeed.

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