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And the Rant Goes On!

In my last blog, I complained about how the two words “Project Manager” can mean such different things to different people. Let me continue my rant on perceptions of the role of the project manager. Well, first of all, why am I making such fuss about this? Because it is just too important to ignore!

A few years ago, at the time of my getting pretty bored with my well-paying full time job, I read Peter Block’s famous Flawless Consulting. The most important thing I learned from it follows: happy and prosperous consultants never position themselves with client as a “pair of hands”.

Far too many of my colleagues in project management are happy with the “facilitator” role. They maintain project schedules and set up meetings, keep minutes and file timesheets. I don’t know why anyone would like such a mind-numbing, boring, low-value job. Fine, perhaps, for a young kid right out of the school, for a short time, just to figure out how the corporate world works, but for a mid-career professional? Please!

I sometimes receive calls for recruiters and am constantly amazed how low project managers’ rates have fallen! I recently heard that banks pay as low as $60,000 and that it is dragging the whole market down. Except, if we are talking about the facilitator role, 60K is just too generous. I can get a clerical person do the same job for much less than that.

What makes sense to me, in terms of positioning, is the “taskmaster” project manager. As an executive or a project sponsor, I want to see someone stepping up and taking on the responsibility of running a project for me. There are clearly defined boundaries, and if the issue is outside of them, I am made aware and expected to provide guidance. This is a partnership, and I rely on the project manager as much as he or she relies on me. A good taskmaster is worth a lot.

The positioning of the project manager as a “mover and a shaker” is appealing and potentially very lucrative, except that:

  1. If such expectation comes without true empowering, which is often the case, the project manager will certainly under deliver (and possibly shorten his expected lifespan).
  2. Inevitable risks outside of the project manager’s control become the project manager’s problem. How do I control things outside of my control? This can get very stressful.

These points are so serious that I would never take on a mover and shaker role unless I have dealt with these issues, no matter how much I like the feeling of making things happen. And I like this feeling a lot!

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