Ever see the movie Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Forcing a detective to work undercover as a kindergarten teacher is a good premise for a comedy, but forcing your developer to also work as a project manager is likely to elicit the same reaction Arnold had when he stepped into a classroom full of unruly kids: “SH-U-U-U-D U-U-U-P!” Okay, so stakeholders are not exactly like misbehaved children, but the roles of developer and project manager are different enough to make combining them a challenge. Paul Glen, writing for Computerworld, tells us why.
Though a cop might be cunning enough to master the psychology of his pea-sized pupils, it doesn’t mean he should. Likewise, developers and PMs are both intelligent, savvy people who share knowledge about the same essential work domain. Yet their approaches to work are as different as night and day. The developer is locked for hours in a digital trance, configuring code against a theoretical framework. Meanwhile the project manager is constantly on their toes, coordinating and task managing, their day a perpetual interruption.
Glen adds that a developer sharing a project manager’s role would fall behind in their work, since the cost of switching tasks (i.e. – trying to find their place again) would be too great. From the opposite angle, a project manager who started sitting in the developer’s chair would soon disappear into a digital Neverland, rarely to be seen by the project team. Either way you slice it, trying to force one person to take on these two roles means either losing productivity, or otherwise losing a leader. In the end, you simply can’t expect them to be as cool as Arnold.