Who is a Project Manager and what does he do?
Most people imagine Project Manager as a well-dressed person, perpetually hated by everyone on the team, good for nothing but still sitting in an AC cabin. Did you also visualize a Project Manager likewise? Let’s discuss what ACTUALLY is expected from a Project Manager(PM).
Imagine a ship, with a crew and a captain. Captain and crew know what is the destination, they have a compass, map, binoculars, supplies, and strength to row to the destination. But they don’t know the route, as they are the middle of the ocean. And they never know, when a storm will hit them. That Captain is your PM. The team relies on PM to get to the destination with his/her knowledge and experience.
Back to land. Our Project Managers normally are the ones who ask –
“What’s the status?”
“When will it be done?”
“Why we missed the deadline?”
“What we can do to come out of this mess?”
Conclusively, PMs normally enter the scene when a project hits a crisis. Now take this back to ship analogy. Assume ship stuck in a thunderstorm, and Captain (who was missing all this time) suddenly appears from his cabin, start shouting to get the wreck in place. Terrible situation! Everybody already lost trust in Captain and running for their lives, instead of rallying behind their Captain’s call.
So logically enough, our Captain and PM should enter scene early – To re-route ship to avoid the storm, to avoid a crisis in the project.
How can they do it? How can a PM avoid being hated by his team? And gain the trust from the team?
They can do it by
- Having the Knowledge to add value in team discussions on a regular basis
- Helping their team to utilize their full potential and setting the right direction for each of them, when there was no crisis period.
To combine all of the above points, let me ask you this – Think of the best manager you had in your career. Why did you like him/her? Before you take a pause and think of one name, let me guess; reason will be either of the above. Your favorite manager either helped you a lot in your tasks, or he/she had a lot of knowledge to share with you. It will be one of the above reasons why you liked that manager, why you rallied behind him/her and why he/she had your respect.
PMs should understand that their job is far more than just followups. It is far more than just using the project management tools like JIRA, Confluence, Gantts, time tracker, etc. They have to participate, pro-actively, with their team on regular basis. They have to understand and know their team’s day to day tasks. Help them achieve and align their tasks to larger vision(the destination).
Most PMs would assume that they have to deal with a status report, demos, deadlines, quality and handling questions from the client. This is their main focus. But how much time you take to prepare all these reports, calls and demos? Total of 6 hours per week? It is true in my case and my experience, so 6 hours it is.
As per experience-based data, out of 40 hours in a week your focus is completely on 6 hours of task i.e. 15% of your time. You heard it right. Most PMs worry about tasks which take about their 15% time and neglect the remaining 85% of their time.
This 85% time is where PMs can gain trust and earn respect from Helping and using their Knowledge with the team. The 15% time, discussed above, is just the outcome of how and where they spend their 85%. So now you know where your focus should be. Yes, with your team. That said, don’t ignore the 15%. But it is still an outcome of 85% of your time.
To summarise the above story – Shift your focus to help every stakeholder with your knowledge on regular basis to gain trust and earn respect. Become like (or better than) the best manager you had. Don’t always rely on your crisis handling skills, but participate before a storm hits your team.