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When is a Project Manager not a Project Manager

~ By Anthony Sherick

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It seems that these days everyone claims to be a project manager. Glancing through the jobs pages of newspapers, you'll see a wide variety of companies crying out for the skills of experienced project managers. Account managers are being renamed project managers; in fact anyone who can be classed as managing a project is now called a PM. But are these 'true' project management roles? We take a look at some of the project management jobs that don't require the skills of a true project manager.

The Vanity Project Manager

This is the person in the sales team responsible for keeping the client happy. Called a 'project manager' because it makes the client think that this is someone on their side managing processes, but their real job is to manage client expectations.

The 'Fingers in All the Pies' Project Manager

This sort of project manager flits around the organisation, poking into every project and attending every meeting going. They take meeting notes, and might even chase you on your action points. But that's as involved as they get in the project.

The Buffer Zone PM

This species of project manager is just an extra layer between the staff doing the work, and those doing the management. They act as a liaison, transferring messages from one side to the other. And that's it.

The 'We Couldn't Think of Another Job Title' Project Manager

This is the glorified account manager who has been given the title of project manager to encompass all possible tasks that their manager chooses to throw at them. And throw they do.

The Subject Matter Expert PM

This sort of project manager quickly becomes the 'extra pair of hands' available to fill in when a member of staff is ill, or deadlines have been missed. Of course, it is handy to be able to get your hands dirty when the going gets tough: there's nothing more frustrating than watching your team toil away, while you make a Gantt chart.

However, in my mind, project managers add value by pre-empting the problems which could send the project whizzing off in the wrong direction. Not being a subject expert has its advantages, as the PM doesn't get drawn into delivery when deadlines are tight. Once the project manager starts to become absorbed in the task, he forgets to look over the horizon and doesn't see the enormous iceberg looming down over the project team.

The project manager doesn't have to be a subject matter expert, but they do have to have some knowledge of the challenges that the team faces in the delivery of the work.

Managing a project is more than taking notes in a meeting, it is a challenging and demanding role that requires specific qualifications. Setting objectives, managing budgets, enforcing timescales and handling multiple stakeholders are tasks that need to be simultaneously managed, and knowledge of solid procedures is going to be key in keeping all these balls in the air. The role of the project manager is a juggler and a negotiator, a salesman and a buyer. A project manager wears a lot of hats, and takes on several guises throughout the working day.

I believe that the best way to identify a true project management professional is one who is meticulous in assessing the success of a project after the event and who learns from the experience. They are interested in how the project developed, and not just the end result. True project management is not just about the finished product, it is the journey.

By Anthony Sherick of Project Manager Jobs the dedicated website for jobs in project management.


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