In the project-based world that we work, it seems like every project needs time allocated to Project Management. To most people, this means that they follow the standard PMBOK methodology and manage the project scope, risk, budget, and issues. However, all too many times, these project managers fall short and do not exert enough influence towards a successful project outcome. In the spectrum of project manager value-add, three types of Project Managers exist, as shown in the following diagram.
On one side of the spectrum are Project Reporters that simply report project status, but do little to influence or change the way the project is being run. A Project Reporter answers the question how are we doing, but adds little more value to the project than that. In the middle is the typical Project Management role. Project Managers take ownership of the outcome of the project by working to resolve issues, but are typically focused or specialized in only a few parts of the project and are relegated to being Project Reporters for the areas that they are not specialized in. Examples of this divide would be business processes versus technical implementation or testing versus production support. Providing services to a portion of the project, but not the entire project limits the influence that a Project Manager can have.
On the far right of the spectrum is a Project Leadership role that all Project Managers should aspire to. Project Leaders are able to manage budgets, scope, risk, etc, but see their role as something more. This role actively dives into all areas of the project and identifies issues before they become scope changers. There are no boundaries between business and technology. There is no such thing as my responsibility or not my problem. This type of leader is engaged and accepts accountability for all aspects of the project. This role also acts as the central knowledge holder across the project and ensures alignment between people, process, and technology, while introducing continuous improvement in the way the project is run. People that fill this role need to be strong managers, communicators, and technologists.
This Project Leader role is largely responsible for the success or failure of many projects. Unfortunately, it is not a role that is typically staffed or budgeted for, so it is either filled part time by someone that opportunistically steps into the role or is forgotten about completely. Ensuring that this Project Leader role is filled is often times one of the biggest challenges for someone tasked with managing a project. However, a good project manager should be able to assess where they stand in the leadership spectrum and take specific steps to move further to the right towards Project Leadership. Positive results and impact are sure to follow.