April 23rd, 2010

There is only one kind of project manager

“So, what kind of project manager are you?”

I got asked this question the other day. Given that it was another project manager asking me, I decided to have some fun with the answer.


As the contents of my daughters' closets prove, there are many kinds of Converse shoes. There is however, only one kind of project manager.

Laughing, I answered: “There’s more than one kind?”

He caught my meaning immediately, and had the grace to be a little embarrassed. “You’re right. I mean, in what industrial sector do you usually work?”

And I let the conversation go into a direction of comparing past experience and industrial sectors. But, this question, and the fact that it gets asked, still bothers me. Truth be told, it drives me up the wall.

I happen to think that there is only one kind of project manager.

This kind of project manager does not sit down and do the deliverables herself: she doesn’t program, do drawings in CAD, weld, or build. This kind of project manager manages her team, stakeholders and customer while still keeping an iron grip on the project scope. This kind of project manager meets budget, schedule and quality requirements. This kind of project manager initiates, plans, monitors and controls, executes, and closes.

This kind of project manager manages priorities, handles carrots and sticks, and builds teams. This kind of project manager sells, solves and negotiates.

You can find this kind of project manager in all sorts of industries: IT, construction, automation, video game, health sciences. You might also find this kind of project manager using an alias: video director, music producer, symphony orchestra conductor.

But no matter the industrial sector or the actual title, no matter the tools and skill sets being used, it’s all for one purpose: the relentless pursuit of “done”.

So the next time someone asks me what kind of project manager I am, I will be ready with an answer.

I am the kind of project manager that gets things done.

When you think about it, there really is no other kind.

2 comments to There is only one kind of project manager

  • I really enjoyed this post and completely agree. I think this comes back to a point in one of my posts about orgs just not getting it (thanks for your comments by the way). They spend millions on R&D, market research, etc and nothing on understanding PM. They think because they are implementing a new software package or developing a new mall, that they need the SW Engineer to be the PM or the Civil Engineer to build the mall! Uggh!

    These folks should be using their expertise to do the work. The PM needs to look at it from a holistic view point to see if Legal has been consulted, has marketing developed the right communications plan, etc etc etc. Drives me up a wall.

    Another benefit of having an ‘outsider’ PM the initiative…dumb questions. That’s right, PMs who don’t know ask plain-dumb questions. Ever here the expression “I wish I knew half of what she has forgotten” That is because ‘experts’ are thinking about the really technical aspects of the project and forgetting about the run of the mill, basic blocks. Dumb questions also lead to new ideas and move people off of “That’s the way we have always done”, which is not always the correct way.

    Sorry for the rant. Great post!

  • Really no matter if someone doesn’t know afterward its up to other users that they will assist, so here it happens.

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