Why you need project management

May we all be honest with one another? We don’t like to be managed.

We are all independent, self-motivated, and believe in personal entrepreneurship. What does that mean? We don’t like to be managed.

Now, this is not to say that we do not have managers that we like. Nor is it a statement that disclaims the rational truth that we understand why managers (and therefore management) is a necessary thing – a necessary evil, if you must. But, there is quite a difference between rational understanding and a genuine affection or enjoyment of a thing.

And project managers, oh, them! Yes, them, those administrative taskmasters who nitpick about how you have booked your time in the time-tracking system and what dates you intend to deliver an item or code, a report, or a plan, and what status or what trend on status do you have for that specific line item–

You get the picture and you know exactly what I am talking about. Project managers, who are in most cases are not even your line manager, add an extra dose of irritation to the whole “being managed” situation.

However, as someone who has been project managed and has been a project manager, it pains part of me to say it, but they can be vital. We need them and here is why.

1. Good PMs provide cover
Once an organization is large enough or if you work at a vendor in doing external client-facing work, a project manager can be a great buffer between you and that client. They can provide you cover from all sorts of things clients, internal and external, can fling at you.

As a developer or consultant sometimes we immediately think that our project manager is asking us so many questions because he or she is nosy, is trying to do our job, doesn’t have anything to do with their time (pick your poison and blame it on the PM).

Reality check: Good PMs ask lots of questions because they are trying to build the story. Software development, in fact, nearly all creative work, is not a 1-2-3 process but clients often believe it is. Or, they think it’s “snap your fingers, magic!” Project managers can become experts at explaining the truth behind your work and protecting you — the person actually doing the work — from needless questions, miscommunications, and simply just wasted time.

The more information you give your PM, the more material he or she has to build the story — to tell it, really — of the great work that you are doing.

The more information you give your PM the more material they have to build the story of the great work that you’re doing.

2. Good PMs always have their eye on the project overall
Sometimes you simply do not want to deal with the big picture. As a developer, an analyst, a consultant, or any type of creative, you do, of course, care that the individual units of work you are creating fit into the larger whole. In fact, you likely even care about the whys. But maybe you are less concerned about the overall product as a whole?

Conversely, as a product manager, you could be incredibly concerned about the product overall, but not so focused on the individual projects that are happening in the product space, depending on the grand scheme of things and as long as it’s coming in on time and is hitting the priorities of your client.

Between those two “extremes” is the project and the project manager who cares about that project. They are always look at how the various pieces fit together (overall scope versus what are firm items and what can be cut because there is a budget that needs to be met and quality measures that must be maintained, et al.) A good PM frees everyone else up to keep their minds on what is important to them and on what they excel at. That PM keeps your cognitive load light and the project flow going.

3. The registrar, the bursar, and the provost cometh
For those of you who have had the exquisite experience of applying to college, filling out financial aid forms, dealing with payments and tuition, selecting courses, acknowledging academic policies around labs, essays, exams, attendance, and all the mess, the above wraiths are not unfamiliar to you.

Those wraiths return to you in the corporate setting where they are better known as the people who create the various administrative hoops that all projects, and thereby all project teams, must jump through so that they me allowed to continue those projects.

  • Why this project must be done?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What is the return-on-investment (ROI)?
  • Why should the project continue and not stop?
  • Why is there so much money being spent?
  • What resources are needed and why and where and how will you get them?
  • How do you prove this project was useful and worthwhile?

Frankly, the list never ends.

Do you know who handles that? Not you, the development manager. Not you, the marketer. Not you, the business consultant, UX/UI designer, web developer, database manager, QA manager, infrastructure analyst, installation manager, product support manager, release manager, or enterprise architect; not any of you. It is the project manager who is on the hook — weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, and on an ad-hoc basis — who must supply all of the answers to the administrative questions that will be asked.

You may contribute to certain submissions, but you are not in the hot seat for it. Nor, do I think, you would want to be.

Treat Your PM Well
Someone once told me that he did not like project managers because they “took all the credit” for the work that had been done. If that is the way that it seems, it makes sense to feel a little slighted. But, all of the good PMs I know spend more time saying and writing:

  • Thank you
  • I really appreciate all the work you’ve put in
  • Next pint is on me

Because they recognize it is a solid team effort. A project manager may be the ‘face’ of the project, the leader, even, but heavy is the had that wears that “crown.” Also, I have not a single doubt that a project manager who does not give credit where credit is due will not last long.

In conclusion, necessary evil?
Or, I think you would agree with me right now when we call project management and it’s faithful adherents as “necessary structure.” A good PM can still call the parts together, can keep things rolling in the background, give you the space to do your best work, and will sing the praises as they tell the story of your project to everyone that will listen.


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You may also follow me on this blog and follow me on LinkedIn where I post other items similar to this. Or catch up with me on Twitter @cabigail2.

If you prefer a one-to-one conversation, you can always e-mail me at cassandra@cassandrajohn.com.

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