You Are a PM, Not a Know It All

There are a lot of roles that a project manager might play in any given organization and on any given project; depending on your expertise and background you might be reviewing code, mapping processes, or writing contracts.  There are a myriad of roles that a PM will play throughout their career, but a few of the core include: leader, visionary, counselor, etc.  As you grow in your career and become comfortable in your abilities as a PM you will know how much you can delve into the various roles you will be called on.  However, what is little more out of your control is the perception your team members will have of you.

I am not necessarily talking about your leadership style, respect levels, and so forth.  Those you can certainly influence.  I am talking about how they view you with regards to being a resource.  If you have their respect, then your team members will bring issues and challenges your way.  They will invite you to some of the more creative design sessions even if you don’t have an ounce of experience…because they respect you.  This all sounds great right?  Well here comes the problem.

Business schools are teaching grads to do what it takes….think outside the box…innovation.  The economy has everyone accepting the fact that they are doing two and three jobs for the price of one…just be thankful you have a job.  We are the center of the project, the leader of the cause, and the common denominator across all functions.  All of this and team members coming to us for who does what, why are we doing this, and what does X requirements need, etc etc etc  I have seen too many project managers try to be the hero.  They hear about an issue and want to chase the history, politics, pushes and pulls so they can get the answer back to the team member.

Listen to me carefully and lean in, this is an E. F. Hutton moment (great reference P Steve!)…. if you do not know the answer but know the person that does, send the person/request to that person with the answer.  Too many PMs/Colleagues have wasted countless time and churned email strings in the spirit of being proactive when they could have simply said John Doe knows the answer.

Knowing who has the answer and getting timely answers to your team is just as important (more important) then running around trying to find the answer.  Don’t be a hero…be a resource.


6 thoughts on “You Are a PM, Not a Know It All

  1. I like the statement, that was trigger from Michael, that we used when our kids were young.

    Don’t be a helicopter parent, or a drill sargent parent, be a consultant parent. Same for a PM.

  2. Thanks everyone for stopping by the post and even more so for taking the time to comment.

    Glen, great suggestion! Here at Lenovo we have similar setups wit slightly different names for the functions. I like to kick off the project with a R&R section, even if I have worked with folks before. I have never really thought about this though …and the RAM is hanging on the wall as a “Big Visible Chart.” Any thoughts on when you don’t have a ‘war room’ to hang charts and such?

    Iain, interdependently successful – I like that. I saw your tweet about expanding on that in a post. I look forward to reading it. There is so much in this space.

    Thanks all!


  3. Make the relationships be the same way we do in the aerospace and defense business. The PM (program manager or project manager) keeps the project sold, interacts with all the finance and business ops. The Control Account Managers (like a tech lead) looks after the delivery of the products. The definition of “done” is described in the WBS and SOW, so no one is confused (beyond normal) about how to move forward.

    There are times when the PM is also the Chief Engineer and that role can be important.

    But in all cases the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) defines who is doing what and the RAM is hanging on the wall as a “Big Visible Chart.”

  4. Hi Robert,

    I really like the point you’ve made in this post. The dangers of a PM being used as a resource, and the PM as a hero.

    I see the PM as someone who removes obstacles for their team, but rarely gets involved in the ‘work’, because change usually doesn’t manage itself well, and the PM likely has a full time job managing the team, triple contraints, stakeholders and quality.

    A hero is independently successful, a PM should be interdependently successful.

    Best regards,

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