Project Managers or Bean Counters?

A second-career program manager (who retired as program manager for one company and came out of retirement for another company) confided in me that he believed his organization would perform better program management without any of the automated project management tools on the market today.

He further stated that too many people think the tool is the solution—that the tool will solve all the communication problems and virtually run the project as if it is on cruise control. His point was that he thinks many project managers today have become simple administrators, essentially bean counters rather than implementers of the project. As such, the bean-counting project managers rely on the tool to send automated e-mail messages to team members informing them that a task is behind schedule or completed.

Notifiership has replaced leadership.

He recalled the days when people would go into a project “war room” with publicly displayed schedules, and the entire project team would meet to resolve issues “face-to-face” with everyone talking about the same thing at the same time.

The odds that the sophisticated tools with all of their capabilities are going away is zero, but what he misses from “pre software tools” days is focused face-to-face communication. I agree with his point that many have become bean counting project managers rather than leaders who implement. However, today’s world of virtual and global teams requires successful communication strategies, even when face-to-face communication is minimal or impossible. This situation is not an excuse for notifiership.

Effective project management requires more than sending e-mails “notifying” people of their responsibility. Project management teams need to be led even when they are virtual or global. Therefore, program managers must ensure that project managers use communication methods to lead teams and that they don’t fall into the notifiership habit.

Communication processes are leadership processes.

One of my mantras is all project management or business tools should be judged on their ability to communicate and the tool is used for communication.  If you are not using the tool as a basis for communication you need to question the tool’s value.  The question should always be asked… “How does this tool facilitate communication?”

Never mistake telling or notifiership for communication.  I have a list of “top ten project manager success factors” and communication is not on the list.  But, if you take care of the top ten you are an excellent communicator.

A sure recipe for disaster from a project execution point of view are the organizations that think project management is bean counting and notifiership, this is usually combined with too many processes and lots of meetings with fancy charts explaining why everything is behind schedule.

Adapted from The Handbook of Program Management.

The Handbook of Program Management - Second

The Handbook of Program Management

Posted by Dr. James Brown in accountability, Leadership Skills, Program Management, Project Management.


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