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Project Managers – Toe Rags or a Necessary Evil?

The Problem:

During my career I’ve had the fortune of finding and working with two very good project managers, the rest I’m afraid are a plague of locusts consuming time and good will. 

We’ve all had a bad project manager, the individual that can’t organise themselves, let alone a large project with multiple deliverables across many disciplines.  With the advances of medical science, surely it must be possible to isolate the Project Manager code/gene/string well before birth and at best remove the useless string and make them valuable members of society?

What’s the worst kind of project manager for you? Someone who sits on your desk/behind you asking for status reports every five minutes? Those that fail to communicate the relevant detail or timelines? How about the one that lives in a perfect fantasy world and genuinely believe there is no need for contingency as the project and the team will run like clockwork? After all we’re all professionals trying to deliver against multi-projects?

Testing for good PM’s?:

For me, I discovered at least one method to identify a good PM.  Purely by accident!  My epiphany occurred during a post project go-live party where we participated in a number of team building activities.  One of them happened to be Blind Land Rover Driving!  As the title suggests you get to drive a Land Rover around a course blind folded, the only way to complete the course is your driving partner providing directions and clear communication.

The not so good project managers, made basic assumptions based on what their view of the world!  As a result they provided poor or irrelevant feedback.  The navigator assume you have the same view of the landscape forgetting that you are driving blind.  As the course was hilly, you could be revving your engine and not move anywhere.  The blind fold makes you think you are moving as the vehicle rocks, but not actually make progress around the course.  The bad PM’s don’t give you the feeling of safety whilst they are in control.  Again assumptions because they can see the landscape, so can you.  Simple instruction like more revs, more/less left/right steer etc was missing.  This could be down to confidence, or basic communication skills.

In contrast, the good PM’s gave very clear and concise instructions exactly as required, i.e. More/less acceleration, turn your wheel half a turn to the left/right etc.  They had a complete view of the landscape and could navigate you around safely and in control.

In terms of an analogy, the key to good project management is timely communication with their team(s)/key individual(s).  PM’s have the best view of the project landscape and therefore can navigate you in to delivering your goals without unnecessary wasted time for requests and status reports.

I acknowledge that this is a two way process and a PM is also only as good as the feedback you provide as an individual.

I would love to hear your views on PM’s, Good/Bad or Indifferent, don’t  make it personal though, and if your working in the field of medical science, I’m interested in hearing from you if you have isolated the useless PM gene and interested in a Nobel Peace Prize!!!


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