As I talk about moving from late and low quality projects to on time with high quality projects and products, I often talk about the various tools we use to get there. However, every project of any significance is made up of people which are the active elements. They are the “things” that actually make something happen. Most of the tools I talk about give people the ability or skills or insights to accomplish things they had not been able to accomplish in the past.
In just about every case, however, the tools are “acting” on other people. Often, these tools help people work together. It might be an accurate schedule estimate, a true picture of how long it is taking to fix defects or a brutally honest progress tracking metric. These outputs of the tools generally allow people, usually a group of people, to act in a coordinated and highly aware manner. Using tools, their actions become more complimentary and less conflicting.
See additionally: The Ulimate Project Management Tool: Paying Attention
This art of getting people to work together in a coordinated and cohesive manner is in fact often what a project manager (or any manager) is trying to achieve with their team. Rarely does the project manager do any “real” work that adds value to the results of the project. In one organization which was starting to make extensive use of project managers, I commented that the project managers appeared to be a patch on an organization whose real problem was that the mid level and senior managers did not work real well together. If those departments just learned to work together better, we would not have needed very many project managers (if any at all).
See for comparison Sometimes Bureaucracy Can Be A Good Thing
So the bottom line is often that the team the project manager “builds” is the real output of their efforts. Sure, they help control and direct resources and manage constraints and changes to the project, but in a well running project or organization many of these plans and controls could be done with a quick get together of managers, rather than needing a dedicated PM. In one organization, that didn’t use project managers, the most senior manager would simply pick the most appropriate manager to be the “lead” for any given project. Every manager always seemed to have several projects they were leading as well as managing their organization’s normal operations. Folks were particularly supportive of the designated project manager in large part because they themselves had done it in the past and would inevitably be in the hot seat in the future.
See alternatives such as Your Project Needs Business Rules Not Meetings
Project management is often, in the final analysis, about building a cohesive team of individuals who then carry out the actual activities of the project. If this team is effective is often more relevant to the success of a project than the technical project management skills of the formal project manager.
How do you go about building effective teams for your projects?