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Why Do We Need Project Managers? A Positive Justification

Do we need project managers? According to Richard Newton, the answer is a resounding yes. Besides being a project manager himself, Newton recognizes that there are situations where a project manager is more appropriately equipped to handle certain situations. Newton writes this blog post to help explain some positive justifications for PMs (citing that many justifications are negative, such as underperforming teams or overworked staff). One of these justifications comes directly from the premise of staff who are working on multiple projects: The normal scenario in organisations is that many project team members are not allocated full time to the project, but only part time. The project work has to contend with everything else they need to do. Human nature is such that we tend to focus on the activities which we are chased for: we do the work of the person who shouts loudest. In this scenario, the project manager has to be one of the people shouting loudly! By chasing people, the work on the project gets prioritised above other activities they have also been asked to do, and the project progresses. This is a real feature of modern organisations, and a role that most project managers find themselves having to do on a regular basis. I still don’t think this is a good reason for needing project managers, but I do accept it is a valid reason given the failures to explicitly prioritise and load staff appropriately in most organisations. Another common reason that Newton is cautious over is described as the “Expert Helper”: a project manager who is also the SME of the work being performed. While this is fundamentally OK for smaller projects, it becomes challenging for project managers to act as both SME and project manager on larger projects. Newton makes a great comparison to help explain why it’s a bad idea: imagine a conductor of an orchestra trying to lead the group while also playing an instrument.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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