Seven Myths of Project Manager Role

March 12, 2018
Saket Bansal
1 Comments
  • webinar
Blog-Image

I am into project management and agile training for the last five years. When I meet professionals, I regularly get questions on ‘What is the role of a project manager?’ and ‘How can I become a project manager?’ In my conversations I also find many misconceptions (as per my understanding ?) about the responsibilities of a project manager. Last week I did a webinar to explore myths around a project manager’s role.

Here are my top seven myths of Project Manager Role:

  • Project Manager role is the same across the organisation
  • Project Manager does estimation and planning
  • Project Manager tells the team what to do
  • Project Manager is only skilled in project management
  • Project Manager Job is to create reports/ Gantt charts
  • Project Manager should be from technology background
  • No role for Project Manager in Agile context

Let’s get little deeper into myths one after the other:

Myth 1: Project Manager Role is the same across the organisation

Project managers have a wide sphere of influence, starting from the immediate project team to the organisation and moving externally (stakeholders & suppliers). You will find organisations defining the role of a project manager by mixing different compositions of project team, organisational and external focus.

Seven-myths

You may find a Team-Focused Project Manager working closely with the project team, coaching and mentoring. An External-Focused Project Manager will work with external stakeholders to understand customer needs and define business strategies. Organization focused activities like vendors management, governance, working with other functions and project teams may also be additional responsibilities but the composition may vary. So the Project Manager role is defined by the organizational needs and not by some theory or PMI. The skills of a project manager will also vary based the focus.

Myth 2: Project Manager does estimation and planning

I am not sure how this myth originated and I find many blaming PMBOK® Guide for recommending it. I have been following PMBOK® Guide for last 10 years and it recommended to get the estimation and planning done by those responsible for execution. The expectation from a project manager is to ensure that the estimation and planning is done and integrated with various sub-parts of the project. The project manager also needs to ensure that planning is done in enough detail as expected by the stakeholders.

A team-focused project manager may be working very closely for estimation and planning whereas, the external-focused project manager may concentrate more on integration of plans made by various teams in the project. The project manager is expected to ensure that the team and stakeholders have a common understanding of what is to be done and what is going to happen next.

Myth 3: Project Manager tells the team what to do

 Can leadership style be enforced? I am not sure why many start associating the role of a Project Manager with a Command and Control Leadership Style. It may be because the Project Manager title exists for long and traditionally leaders followed command and control.

Project Managers lead and influence the team and stakeholders to achieve project objectives, and how they do it is based on their leadership style. According to PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition there are many possible leadership styles, here I am naming a few – Laissez-faire, Transactional, Servant leader, Transformational, Charismatic, and Interactional. Project managers should adopt the style based on the situation. For example, the project manager following command and control leadership style with a knowledge worker may result in low motivation and poor result.

Myth 4: Project Managers are only skilled in project management

This could have been a reality 10 years ago but not anymore. PMI recognized this fact a few years back and has come up with the concept of a Talent Triangle.

 

The PMI TALENT TRIANGLE and The PMI Talent Triangle logo are marks of Project Management Institute, Inc.
 

 

Talent Triangle portrays that in addition to technical project management skills, leadership and strategic and business management skills are also important to grow. The PMI-PBA® (professional business analyst) certification was created to improve the business analysis skills of a project manager. The project manager may get more value by decreasing the time spent in coordination and spending more time in Leadership and Strategic Business management.

Myth 5: Project Manager Job is to create reports/ Gantt charts

The goal of a project manager is to ensure stakeholder engagement and alignment. This was done earlier through reports and Gantt charts to bring the stakeholder on-board. With changing time and more and more adaptation, methods like meetings, reviews, walkthroughs, and information radiators are becoming more popular. The end objective of the project manager is to bring transparency and align everyone to the project goals. The PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition includes all the new tools and techniques for project managers. However, project managers are not limited to using these tools instead, they need to ensure alignment towards project objective and a clear sense of where we stand to all the stakeholders.

Myth 6: Project Manager should be from a technology background

 I would say this might be true for some organizations but not for a Project Managers’ role in general. If the project manager is working with his team playing a contributor and a project manager role, technology skills can add good value. However, in addition to technology, business skills and strategic thinking are essential to growing as a project manager. The expectation of the project manager is to be multi-skilled and focus on the ‘big picture’ of stakeholder management and communication rather than technology all along. As I said before, in today’s world the project manager is expected to do much more than just coordination and technology is not necessarily to be only option for adding more value in your role.

Myth 7: No role for Project Manager in Agile context

My take is simple, you find the role of a project manager if you have projects. Many agile organizations are moving away from doing things the Project-way to the Product-way. In such organizations you may not have role called project manager. Work done by the project manager is done by other roles, like Product Owner ensure alignment to business goals. I do see especially in India that majority of service-based organizations using Agile Approaches, use project-based approach. The project-based approach helps them in having contract for defined duration and objective for the client .Here, I see a project manager role adding value.

Is PMP® certification then required? Agile is a way of thinking. Agile approaches are more focused on execution. PMP® certification provides a possible view into areas from planning to delivery to help guide project managers.

I do want to acknowledge that this all is my understanding of a project manager’s role based on what I have seen in industry in my experience and from my clients’ experience. I would like to hear what you have observed about the role of project manager and your views on the myths that I have listed here. Do share your experience in comment section.

You may also like to explore recording of webinar done on this topic