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.

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