Survey results provide an indication of the expectations of the role of a project manager

A few years ago, after 25 years of managing projects and programs, I was curious about whether I as a project manager was meeting stakeholder expectations. Beyond that, I wanted to know what project managers (PMs) expect their role to be, and what people who have project managers (NPMs) expect the role of a project manager to be.

Based on anecdotal evidence collected over my career as a PM, I had three theories:

  1. PMs and NPMs don’t see eye to eye on the role.
  2. PMs are too much in the weeds and have a tendency to micromanage.
  3. NPMs don’t necessarily value project managers.

To find out whether my anecdotal evidence was true, I set up a survey. With 18 questions on the role of a project manager, more than 250 people responded – half project managers and half non-project managers. They represented 40 countries and 12 industries. The full results of the survey will be available in a few weeks, but here are some thought-provoking initial findings.

Project managers matter

Ruth Pearce Survey 1 Results

Happily, both groups agreed that the role of a project manager is essential to the success of a project. 86% of NPMs agreed with this statement as do 90% of PMs.

Both groups agreed that project managers provide context and purpose. The gap here is wider, with 71% of NPMs and 88% of PMs agreeing with this statement.

To a similar extent, we agree that project managers make things happen with 74% of NPMs and 90% of PMs agreeing with that statement.

So far, so good!

Ruth P. Survey Respondant Answer 1

The effectiveness devil is in the project manager details!

Something to note is the degree to which the two groups agreed – although their answers were generally aligned, they did not always answer with the same intensity! For example, we agree that PMs are essential, but only 50% of NPMs strongly agree while 74% of PMs do!

30% of NPMs felt strongly that project managers make things happen, but double that number of PMs felt strongly that making things happen is part of their impact (59.8% of PMs).

The elephant in the room – micromanagement

We have all heard project managers referred to as micromanagers or characterized as people with clipboards. Two statements were considered – Project managers slow down development and delivery by having too many meetings and project managers are too task-oriented to be helpful.

The good news is that around 60% of people in each group disagree with these statements.

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