8 Myths on Project Manager vs. the “Real” Manager, Part 1

MythAs I promised, in this post I’ll discuss eight main misconceptions about the status of Project Manager as a “Real” Manager. There are probably more, but these are the ones I’ve encountered the most during my experience in different organizations. Take a look at them, and it might facilitate your work tremendously.

1. “Project Manager does not care about people as he leaves at the end of the project”

Well, the world is actually a much smaller place than astrophysicists are trying to persuade us. Projects come and go, but serious companies are there to stay. So there is a great chance that PM will encounter the people he worked with on the project in the not so distant future. In addition, today the word travels with the speed of Social Networks connections and every Project Manager is concerned about his reputation as much as any other person or may be even more. Moreover, as opposite to others who work full time in the organization, he has a very short period of time to leave an impression, both as an achiever, but also as someone nice to work with. He cares about the legacy he leaves behind and how it affects his colleagues, because only a really successful delivery will guarantee his future employment.

2. “Project Manager is unsuited for leading the project as he cannot possibly understand what we are doing here for years”

That would probably be the oldest and most “popular” statement about PM’s role. Don’t ask a PM if he had heard it, go straight forward to asking how many times he heard it.

PM’s role on the project is not to perform someone else’s job, which means he doesn’t have to know every technical detail about what others did in the past. To manage a project is a skill per se and this is what a PM ought to be professional at, and this skill includes a very vast toolbox for quickly understanding the situation on the project. It may sound esoteric to people not familiar with these tools, but it just underlines the fact that an expert was invited to contribute knowledge not previously present within the organization.

Of course, successful PM’s know how to mitigate this misconception by gaining the trust of people involved on the project by generously explaining and affirming with his actions (such as delegation, proper work breakdown, healthy communication etc.), that as any other specialist on the project, PM has his own domain. While others are contributing knowledge from different disciplines (this is the point where all this valuable “local” expertise is pouring in), PM is managing the very mechanics of project delivery.

3. “Only Functional Manager should be promoted to the executive level

Everyone understands that it is easier to be promoted from inside the company. In addition, being a Functional Manager is a more convenient path for acquiring the product/services specific knowledge.

But let’s ask ourselves: what is executive level all about and why there is still a differentiation between the “senior” and the “executive” levels?

The first and foremost it is about the change of status from being just a manager to being a leader. How would we describe a leader? In one sentence, leader means leading the change and being able to challenge the current state, instead of just ensuring that it functions properly. Not every PM could be a leader, as much as not any Functional Manager is. Both PM and FM are constantly managing initiatives, teams, encountering challenges and coming up with creative solutions. There is a variance in number of domains either manager has to focus on. But does it make any of them a better leader? I doubt it. The way I see it, Project and Functional managers are practically having the same odds for being great in making executive decisions and leading.

4. “Delivery of the project is solely PM’s responsibility. Why would I share my information?”

This is just pure short-sightedness. If the organizational politics are more important to you than the project’s success and you prefer to “win” today’s battle by depriving data from PM, think again. Winning battles has no meaning in a lost campaign. Any professional manager knows the limitations of his knowledge and skillfully utilizes any resources, which also means sharing information. In the end, the project will be commenced and delivered, wouldn’t you want to be a part of the success?

Look up for the remaining four PM vs. FM myths in my next post.

What is your take on that?

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