Difficult Project Managers

The following are difficult archetypes within a project management organization:

To those not familiar with Software Development, it may be confusing that a project would have both a Product Manager, as well as a Project Manager. The difference is that the former is responsible for defining the product, while the latter is responsible for tracking the status of the project, and reporting back to stakeholders if the delivery date is at risk.

Project Managers will tend to seek predictability in delivery dates by standardizing and enforcing repeatably processes. These process standards will tend to have an emphasis on status reporting, such that progress can be monitored. The generally held assumption is that the closer these processes are followed, the more predictable the project schedule will become, and more likely the project will be delivered on time.

The bane of a Project Manager’s existence is the quality of the estimates they receive from the project team. How these estimates are produced can vary wildly, and are normally different from person-to-person, and may require daily updating. This churn in estimates ultimately makes the project delivery date impossible to predict, yet the Project Manager is expected to establish a schedule with a firm delivery date. When the delivery date is invariable missed, the Project Manager must then find a way to explain why the date was missed, without alienating the project members directly responsible for the date being missed. Insufficient diplomacy in this area will often result in project team members accusing the Project Manager of “Throwing them under the bus”, regardless of the accuracy of what they are reporting.

4 thoughts on “Difficult Project Managers

    • Please forgive my brevity in describing project managers. In the context in which I used it I wanted to draw a contrast between a Product and Project manager, and that seemed to be the simplest way to contrast them for a novice. If you’ve got a better phrasing let me know.

      Your link is to PMI, which represents (to me) real-deal project managers. The best project managers I’ve ever worked with were PMP trained, but alas – PMP training is not a standard requirement in the software industry for the “Project Manager” role (though I wish it was).

      There’s quite a few no-fly zones in my writing and speaking, and one of them is me contrasting the relative value of Project Managers with other managing-the-project-but-not-really style roles. Suffice to say, a great Project Manager is worth the weight in gold – sometimes literally.

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