My role on the panel was to bring a project manager's perspective on design projects, specifically for development of software applications in the healthcare sector. One of the key messages I shared with the graduate students was to treat their project manager as an asset or resource, not as a taskmaster.
Rightly or wrongly, people often think of project managers as the “person in charge”. They see this indvidual as juggling timelines, schedules and checklists, and handing out task assignments. However, I wanted the graduate students from the School of Design to understand that their job would be easier if they treat their project manager as a partner and a resource.
In my opinion, a good project manager helps his or her team remove roadblocks and open new paths to help the team members achieve their goals. For example, if a software developer needs a new software license or a certain piece of hardware, their project manager should be the one championing the procurement of the new resources. Or if the UX design team needs to obtain feedback from certain customers, salespeople, or product users, the project manager could make those initial introductions and assist the designers to gain access to key stakeholder groups.
What if the business analysts and designers wanted to know the current set of feature priorities or the worst-offender bugs? How about what the latest data teaches us about a new product feature? The project manager should be able to provide the data or at least connect the analysts and designers with the right people who have the data.
It is our jobs as project managers to shield our teams from as much administrivia and unnecessary distractions as possible. This will allow your team members to do their best and most meaningful work.
I encourage project managers to inform your teams that they should treat you as an asset and not a task master.