Sunday, December 13, 2009

Identifing Poor Project Managers

Poor Project Managers cost their companies money. The blatantly poor project managers are identified quickly. But there are other types that are much more subtle and not easily identified. These folks, create job security for themselves through poor performance. Unfortunately, they are often rewarded for their poor performance. These more subtle poor performers fall under multiple categories. I have identified just a few here.

The Bumble Bee

The Bumble Bee is the typical IT guy/gal that is a technician that was promoted to project manager. They are not so good at managing expectations. The Bumble Bee prefers the details and execution. Control is a foreign word to them. They are extremely likable project managers and they rely upon their likability. Their sponsors love them. They are great with small projects. They may even rely upon their inability to control scope and disguise it under the method of "Agile". They just kind of bumble along on their projects and when an obstacle presents it's self, they just go around it. If the sponsor changes scope, they will bumble along. The problem with this approach is if they bother to mention at all, the scope creep, the impact will be minimized. The message will not be delivered with the appropriate importance. The Bumble Bee, does not deliver warnings or bad news well at all. The Bumble Bee will just continue to bumble along. If it works out great. But the if new scope doesn't that is when the Bumble Bee will sting.

The Fire Fighter

The Fire Fighter hates to follow process and loves to be the hero. They will consciously or unconsciously create problems so that they can fix them and then be the one who "saved-the-day". They cut corners and don't follow process. A common claim of the Fire Fighter is that process slows them down. You even ask them to come up with a better process, of course they don't have a clue. Then when the project starts going bad, because steps were skipped, the Fire Fighter steps up to the plate and saves the day. This is their modus operandi. They create their own jobs, through constantly being the hero. It's funny, but once this person leaves the organization, the problems all go away and you don't need a Fire Fighter to save the day.

The Know-it-All

The Know-It-All can be surprisingly charming or extremely annoying. They follow process, but their down fall is lack of flexibility and inability to see reality. The Know-It-All works in the world of theory. As soon as reality departs from theory, they do not deal well with it. They will jeopardize projects and relationships in their quest for truth. Remember they know it all and are too proud to ask for help. The Know-It-All will be the extreme with process, often putting too much emphasis on process into what should be a simple project. They aren't capable of discerning scale or culture.

Don't Forget Management

Let us not put all the blame on poor project managers. The other side to this is, that all three of these types can be created by the management they work for. If you have an overbearing management, the PM may slip into the Bumble Bee. If you have management that sets scope, time and budget without consulting the team, the PM may slip into the Fire Fighter in order to attempt to meet the aggressive schedule. If you have management that insists on policy and procedure, they may inadvertently create the Know-It-All.


These are just a few of the subtle poor project managers. We have all worked with these types before. The point of this is, that these project managers, poorly as they may perform do exist. You can't tell from a single project if they are one of these. You are only able to identify them through repeat performances. You have probably worked with more than one of these. And they can only be identified through multiple projects. They are costing the organizations they work for money because of their failure to properly execute. Unfortunately, many managers are ignorant of these problems and fall into the trap of rewarding failure.

What do you think? I would love to hear your comments on this.


Armada Business Consulting, Inc.

Need help getting from strategy to execution?  I can help.  For more information contact Trish at


Friday, September 25, 2009

Why Project Managers are Necessary

I was at a networking event last week, put on by DetroitNet.Org down in Royal Oak, Michigan. It seemed as though every job seeker there was a victim of the downsizing of Detroit's "big three", myself included.

One gentleman I spoke with Scott Sweeder, PMP, said they let him go, because his management said the developers could work directly with the users. When he stated that, he said it with a grin. I looked at him incredulously and smiled. Then his grin broke into smile and then we both started to chuckle....

Now, understand Scott is a seasoned technical project manager, as am I. I've been pulled in to save many many projects that have gone bad. So why do you think 2 senior IT leaders would start to chuckle because management thinks that developers can work directly with the users?

Let me tell you about the last application development project that was run by a developer. It was suppose to be 4 months, a quick little e-commerce site. After 2 1/2 years, it still wasn't completed.

When I started with the company where this project was taking place, the users were complaining that it still had not launched. They complained about the developer, they complained about the vendor providing some of the programming. The developer complained about the users and marketing changing their mind and blamed the users and the vendor and the marketing. Of course, the vendor, blamed the developers and the users and the marketing. The marketing people just wanted it DONE!

I put a project manager on it and in 6 weeks it launched.

A decision to proceed with the project had to have a positive ROI otherwise why do it. But where has that ROI gone when you take the 4 month project that was extended into a 2 1/2 year project and start calculating the costs incurred.
  • The developers salaries over 2 1/2 years
  • The value of the lost opportunity over 2 1/2 years
  • The salaries of the other users, vendors involved over 2 1/2 years
But, the "powers that be" are often oblivious to the fact that developers core competency lies in their abilities to communicate with technology and computers, NOT people. They were trained in how to work computers. They were not trained to communicate with people! Developers are excellent "YES" people. In fact I've had to coach my developers on multiple occasions to NEVER PROMISE the user anything. Because they will if you let them promise the MOON. And this is how a 4 month project turns into a 2 1/2 year project.

So, what's the point? The point is, good Project Managers make it look easy. A 4 month project gets done in 4 months with a project manager, but takes 2 1/2 years without one. A company doesn't lose money by investing in a good Project Manager. Companies lose money when they decide to to without a good Project Manager.

This is why Project Managers are necessary.
What do you think?   Please share your thoughts on this.


Armada Business Consulting, Inc.

Need help getting from strategy to execution?  I can help.  For more information contact Trish at