The discussion that elise and
lilo are having is very
interesting. I once worked a company that placed a great
emphasis on project managers, and they seem to have mixed
At this place I used to work, there was a "People Manager"
all of the resource/budget/people work covered by elise's
"People Manger" and "Budgets & Purchasing Manager". This
was enough work in and of itself. They were responsible
with deciding what projects you worked on, what classes they
would pay for you to attend, whether to fight for more
workstations, and all the other "people" tasks. A large job
in and of itself. So large that my department had two of
There were "Meeting Managers" too, but they seemed a lot
less useful. They co-ordinated meeting times and minutes.
"piercing" questions that probably only resulted in their
name being heard. Many meetings I was on were run by actual
project/task workers. These meetings were much better.
This is not to belittle the Meeting Managers I knew, as they
were often bright enough and I was friends with some. But a
person familiar with the task is going to have a giant
advantage, and it shows. This sort of task can usually fold
into one of the other management catergories. A People
Manager can handle meetings about department protocol, and a
Project Manager can handle meetings about project tasks.
Projects were managed by "Project Managers", who fell rather
within the lines of elise's description. Every project
spanned multiple departments, so these managers had no real
authority with regard to the employees. They could only
make decisions on the project.
I can't say whether Project Managers are a great idea. I've
seen a lot of issues with them.
One of the benifits of Project Managers is that they are
focused on the project. It is their responsibility to keep
it on time and on target. They do not have other
distractions (aside from other projects they manage, of
course) to keep them from this. It seems obvious that
separating this role from the "People Manager" is very
Unfortunately, their entire appraisal rests on the project
finishing on time and on target. So they need a
target. Often I have been asked for specific dates six
months down the road, when the Project Manager and I
both knew that the dates often changed 3 times a week. They
still needed the dates so they could "have their target".
Once that target is set, it could get even worse. In
elise's description she mentions:
In addition, this person should also be able to alter
expectations should a project need more time than estimated
Now, the Project Managers did
have this ability.
But think on how bad it looks for them to admit they got it
wrong. Most people, on the face of things, know that
sometimes estimates are off. When you are three levels of
management removed on an important project, it becomes a big
issue. At least some folks worry that it does. They think
that the Higher-Ups might pin the project delay on one of
two things: "The Project Manager failed to lead" or " The
technical staff failed their tasks." A Project Manager
position comes with relatively good compensation. They take
accordingly. Everyone has seen the Blame Game in action.
It's part of life.
Someone has to manage the project, of course. And projects
get managed, whether well or poorly. I know of great
Project Managers at my former job.
Not surprisingly, good Project Managers are that rare
cross-breed. A technical person that got into organizing
things, and it stuck. These are rare.
A technical person that is forced into taking charge will
likely find it boring, and they will not keep up with the
responsibilities of the job. To the project participants,
they will be a "great" manager, because there will be little
to know "busy work" and a lot of good discussion. The
learning curve will be nil, and they can speak on an even
footing. The Higher-Ups will hate the unlucky person,
because no reports are done, the project might go over
(because it has to), or any other lack of administrative
On the other hand, a generic management type that moves from
"People" managing to "Project" managing will have to
struggle to understand the project at a level near the
participants. This is not because of stupidity, but because
of background. In addition, they will pay the most
attention to the administrative detail, not the real needs
of the project. The dreaded "administrivia". The technical
staff will be, at best, annoyed by this approach. Superiors
will be pleased with this person's management, but they are
even more vulnerable to project failure/delay, as management
is their skill. They may feel the need to protect
their image. This is obviously a stereotypical case,
because bright managers can surely do good with the staff,
and with superiors. In addition, not everyone is out to
promote their image by backstabbing others. But I'm sure
everyone has known at leat one coworker like that.
These are stereotypical cases. Why? Because they occur
often. Protecting your image at work is something
everyone does. The difference is the image you are
protecting. A coder might want things done the Right
Way, and so a "yes man" image to the boss is less
important. A manager might covet being everyone's friend,
and so win less favor with his boss. In a world
where you do have to pay the rent at the end of the month,
most folks choose to further the image that gets the most
raises, and keeps the best job.
So the best project manager is the one who can work on the
project and manage the project. This is two separate skill
sets that are very vast. If you find one of these people,
they're a keeper.
I suspect that with more proofreading this could have been
more eloquent, but right now I don't care. So it wanders a