The project management landscape has had a real paradigm shift over the years. As more and more organizations adopt Agile ways of working and project delivery principles, there is a temptation to adopt a sentiment that Project Managers are no longer required for successful project delivery. Aligned to the waterfall methodology of project delivery, project managers have often gotten a bad reputation for acting merely as ‘gatekeeper’ ‘reporter of bad news’ and in some cases viewed as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity.
The irony of all this though is that the role of a Project Manager is often minimized, yet the functional activities they perform are still very much needed and, in some cases, adopted by other resources with different titles ‘Team Lead’ ‘Transformation Consultant’ etc.
The reality is that Project Managers are not only needed, they are the key to true transformative success within organisations aiming to achieve impact and realise real return on investment in their projects and programmes.
Monitoring and Reporting Progress
A major role of a Project Manager is in the monitoring and reporting of progress.
While this may seem simple in theory, the multidimensional nature of projects means that recognizing and reporting on project dependencies, impacts, scope changes, future change projections required a perspective which is both lateral and strategic.
Many a project has fallen over budget and under-delivered due to inaccurate or ineffective forecasting and reporting
Project Managers are often seen as independent of a team and operate more along the lines of being facilitators and coordinators of teams to drive the end goal. However, in reality, the role of a PM goes beyond peripheral activities when it comes to team dynamics.
PMs have a real role in defining the mood and motivation of the team. Delivering expectations in a considerate way, outlining scope changes in a way that is sensitive to the efforts of the delivery team so as not to lower morale, facilitating cohesion among often disparate and geographically different teams PMs are often unsung heroes in this regard.
Team Leader is usually bottom-up, getting into the details and rolling up one,s sleeves to ensure the work is done. However often overlooked, the role PMs have in strategically influencing decisions makers, sponsors and other stakeholders who have a vested interest in the output of the project. It shouldn’t be underestimated how much of the pressures from senior leadership and beyond is managed by the Project Manager.
Additionally, PMs tend to lend a strategic perspective to senior leadership about the potential future direction projects may (or should) take, given their knowledge of the project landscape but also their knowledge of the specific industry and capability developments.
Finally, rigour and diligence is imperative in ensuring that projects are not only delivered on time, on budget and to expected scope but that the quality of deliverables must be robust enough to demonstrate a return on investment.
Lessons learned, product reviews and adopting a iterative delivery approach are not guarantees to quality outputs.
Rather; ensuring oversight, holding those responsible for delivering outputs to account, and creating the parameters for which deliverables are signed off based on client expectations prevents the release of substandard outputs.
The case for Project Managers and their necessity on projects long term will always be a dividing one. Some see the role of PMs as ‘in and out’ within the shortest period possible. After all, projects under a waterfall methodology are ‘short term to deliver specific value’ so why keep a PM beyond their needed tenure.
The argument here isn’t to suggest that PMs be kept on indefinitely or that their role is impossible to replace if needed, rather it is to say that the conditions under which a PM are brought onto a project matter. The way a PM is viewed matter and consequently the impact a PM delivers matters.
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