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:
- PMs and NPMs don’t see eye to eye on the role.
- PMs are too much in the weeds and have a tendency to micromanage.
- 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
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!
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.
Ruth Pearce, JD, PMP, PMI-ACP, ITIL ACC is the founder of Project Motivator (ALLE LLC) and is a certified coach trainer. She is the author of Be A Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strengths-Based Project Management. Ruth has 25 years of project and program management experience in financial services, state government and non-profits, working with teams across the globe. Her focus is on developing project management skills in human factors enabling them to build empowered and engaged teams that deliver. Ruth writes about communication, stakeholder management, and culture & behavior.