Role of Project Managers - Should Project Managers behave like Prima Donnas ?

This article addresses the question: Should Project Managers behave like Prima Donnas? The question posed is about the role of the project manager and the ways in which he or she steers the project towards successful completion. The thesis statement is about the point that covers a broad range of topics and deals with a set of questions that include how much and how far should the project manager involve himself or herself and the extent to which the project manager has to go in meeting stakeholder expectations and keeping the team intact.

It has been said that Project Management is the art of balancing competing demands and determining appropriate interventions whenever necessary. The balancing act is about taking the different stakeholder requirements together and then ensuring that everything falls together for the common purpose of meeting the project deliverables. This then is the bottom-line guideline for project managers: The practice of management for the express purpose of delivering customer delight and stakeholder value.

The contention of this author is that project managers and the art of project management is highly contextual and situation dependant that theory can only point the way and it is up to the individual to make the decisions and tread the path accordingly. Real world scenarios often have a way of surprising the most experienced project manager and hence theory can only help to a point in making decisions that affect real people. Thus, one way of looking at the question is that project managers have to combine the science of project management with the art of people and process management to achieve optimal results. Project Management combines statistics and people skills in equal measure and it is incumbent upon the project manager to plan their strategies accordingly.

There has been much debate about what the Project Manager can or cannot do. And the argument is also centred around on whether to take a proactive or a subdued approach towards the issues surrounding the management of the project. The proactive approach favours an interventionist and hands on approach that includes intervening in day to day affairs of the project. This approach is manifested in the IT industry where the Project Manager is called upon to involve themselves in the technical aspects of the project that would include participating in design, coding and other activities. This phenomenon cannot be said to be restricted to the IT industry alone as there are several instances in the other sectors where the Project Manager has to get their hands dirty, literally and metaphorically.

There are organisations that define the role of the project manager clearly and delineate the roles and responsibilities. This usually happens in Matrix organisations where the structure of the organisation is such that there is lot of emphasis on clarity of the role. Thus, after a review of the literature, it would seem that there is no single answer to the question of whether the project manager has to be at the centre of the universe or like a conductor directing the symphony. In conclusion, the question of whether the project managers should behave as Prima Donnas need to be answered as something that is contextual and situation dependant. In the fast paced world of organisations and project management, the central role for a project manager ensures that he or she is always in the middle of action and the thick of things. Thus, the art of project management requires extraordinary patience and certain thoughtfulness towards the team and stakeholders. Any management devoid of sensitivity and lack of finesse is bound to result in failure.


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