I have a good friend who’s an experienced data architect. Since I write about IT project management all the time, I recently asked him if he’d ever consider a PM job. To this he replied: "No way."
I probed further about his rationale, and we came up with these five reasons why he dislikes project management and project managers and tries to steer clear of the profession whenever possible.
Project Managers are too structured
While every IT project team can benefit from some structure, my friend feels that PMs in general err on the side of micromanagement. They create cost and hourly estimates for tasks and then hold employees to them even when the scope of the project or the needs of the client change. “A lot of PMs act like it’s all about them and their process,” my friend says. “But we are the ones closer to the work and what actually needs to be done, so sometimes they just need to back off.
Project Managers are always justifying their existence
Remember last year’s post based on a LinkedIn discussion questioning whether PM was an actual title/legitimate job? My friend says that the majority of his interactions with PMs involve creating useless frameworks around work that’s already being done fairly seamlessly. “PMs always seem to be doing busywork,” he says. “There are loads of reports, documents, and charts that don’t do anything except show that the PM is working.”
Project Managers are meeting happy
PMs call too many meetings and spend too much time tasking every aspect of every project. “Here’s the thing,” my friend says. “We data architects are generally assigned six hours a day for development, and get to spend the remaining two hours doing meetings, phone calls, emails, and admin. But PMs’ meetings are so frequent and long that they are always cutting into development time. Of course, then they complain that we didn’t finish our tasks in the allotted hours.”
Project Managers don’t communicate openly
Have you ever heard the stereotype about teachers that says: “those who can’t do, teach.” The same is said to be true about PMs. Some assume that people become PMs because they weren’t skilled enough to be developers and as a result are insecure. They guard their power carefully and hold their cards close to the vest when threatened or stressed. “A lot of PMs won’t share the big picture with the team, so we might finish a task and be sitting there with no idea what to do next,” my friend tells me.
Overly rigorous Project Management signals a lack of trust
“In my 18 years in this field, I’ve come to realize that the less an IT organization trusts its developers, and the less capable those developers are, the more PM is needed,” my friend says. “But if you don’t have a good team to start, you already have a problem that PM won’t solve.” My friend is personally fed up with PMs that don’t trust his process. “I once had a project that was completed successfully – on schedule and in budget. But my PM gave me a hard time because he didn’t like the way I’d allocated my hours, so he called the whole thing a failure. That lack of faith was so demotivating.”
Is my friend the only developer who feels this way about PMs? Far from it, if a recent online survey by Amplicate is any indication: 51 percent of the respondents expressed hate for project managers and project management. So, if you are a PM yourself or do PM as part of your role, it’s probably a good idea to proactively address the concerns.
Counteracting the hate
It seems to me that more upfront communication from PMs would go a long way. When working with a new development team, get each member’s insights on the best way to proceed with the project, how to document progress, and how to measure success. Explain why the project benefits the organization and what the expectations are from the top down.
Agree on a meeting structure that’s conducive to productivity, and make it clear how, when, and why you will be “checking in” during the development process. And finally, when you do intervene, don’t be a jerk about it. Like any manager, you should always be generous with your appreciation and praise. If your team members are happy to see your face or your emails and welcome your input and support, then you’ve done all the right things to counteract the potentially negative PM persona.