Project Managers are from Imaginationland

Project Managers are from Imaginationland

Project Managers Disrupt

Project Managers that are solely Project Managers are useless. It’s a make-believe job to make somebody feel important and make the project seem like it’s, um, being managed.

Like Unicorns that shit skittles, Project Managers shit tasks. Project Managers have a phantom value to fill. If they’re not “managing stuff” then they’re not fulfilling their supposed work value. Since “managing stuff” includes interacting with the team, expect to be bothered with persnickety details, deadlines, and daily meetings.

The term “Project Manager” presupposes that the team members are unable to manage themselves. That’s blasphemy. Take a hint from 37Signals and hire a manager of one:

When you’re hiring, seek out people who are managers of one.

What’s that mean? A manager of one is someone who comes up with their own goals and executes them. They don’t need heavy direction. They don’t need daily check-ins. They do what a manager would do — set the tone, assign items, determine what needs to get done, etc. — but they do it by themselves and for themselves.

These people free you from oversight. They set their own direction. When you leave them alone, they surprise you with how much they’ve gotten done. They don’t need a lot of handholding or supervision.

A group of self-sufficient employees working with a good piece of project management software are perfectly capable of handling a project. Why add a middleman when you can communicate through software that is designed specifically for this? We use goplanapp and I love it.

If you absolutely need to assign the job to one person, then assign it to one of the team members. This way, they’ll still be productive when they’re not managing and won’t feel the need to disrupt others. They will also have the expertise to understand the core issues that other team members are facing.

Project Managers Don’t Know The What

Managers need to have general knowledge of every expertise they are managing. If they don’t, they’ll just end up causing problems.

Case in point. A few months ago, I started a website for a local company. I estimated my end of the project at 20-30 hours. It took over 40. What happened? Inefficient communication. The project manager only had management experience. She had no IT experience, no graphics experience, no design experience, and no programming experience. She knew how to communicate, but she didn’t know what. Let me rephrase, she regurgitated the “what” without knowing the “why”.

In Rework, Jason Fried and D.H.H argue that you should do the job yourself before you hire. By doing so, you will gain an inside perspective on what the job requires and what to hire for. The same holds true for managers.

Project managers that don’t have a firm grasp on their moving parts cause tension that will eventually break the machine. They don’t understand that new technology can cause a whole new can of worms. That adding a feature may cause more friction for the user. When they want a redesign, they expect it in two days instead of two weeks. They don’t get that planning is just guessing.

Project Managers Don’t Understand The Why

Project Managers cause people to feel anxious because they don’t have enough expertise to understand the process. They can’t empathize, and when they do, it’s inauthentic and alienates the team member. I give credit to project managers who are trying to learn. Businesses are always in flux and sometimes someone has to step up. Seasoned managers that aren’t learning have no excuse for folly. They waste time with their training wheels. They should learn to ride before leading the race.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, requires every new hire to go through at least one month of Customer Service at the call center. He does this because he knows that those representatives are on the front lines. They have their ears to the ground and they’ll hear the rumbles of a stampede before anyone else. After one month of answering phone calls, the new employees will understand the Whys of the business.

Project Managers Are A Crutch

A good manager sets up a framework, makes it easy for team members to communicate, and then gets out of the way. Phil Jackson has been doing this for years. I used to watch the Lakers get pummeled and wondered why he wouldn’t call a timeout. Why was he letting the other team go on a 12-0 run? Because he was creating a self-sufficient Lakers team. When a coach keeps calling timeout, the team never learns how to adapt. Suddenly, the coach’s management style has become a crutch. A team that can call an internal “Time-out” on the court has learned to adapt in situations when there are no timeouts left. They no longer need the coach to hold their hands.

So when it comes to managing, take heed of 37Signals, Tony Hseih, and Phil Jackson. Let the players play.


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