Why do Some Project Managers Hate Project Management?
Head of PMO
Project Activity Sponsor
- 6 min
In many organizations, it is widely believed that project management is designed to make the life of a project manager easier and more convenient. And when the implementation of organizational project management does not work as planned and as a result does not bring the expected benefits, a natural question arises: what went wrong? One of the answers to it is very simple: project management for the project manager is a myth.
Let me give you a metaphor: Imagine a train of many freight cars going from point A to point B. The cars move coordinated along the rails, and thanks to them, the cargo goes where the shipper wants.
But let’s imagine that the cars have some kind of free will. Do the wagons want to go in such a composition, carry this particular cargo, and move precisely from point A to point B? The shipper knows nothing about this. Maybe one car dreamed of standing at a dead end all his life, while the other wants to go to point C? Does that make it a bad wagon? No. You just need everything to happen that way, and not the other.
It is the shipper who acts as the main beneficiary and decides how the rails will be laid and where the train will go. In my metaphor, project management and its tools are the rails along which the project moves, fulfilling certain goals and objectives of the organization. And project managers are in some respect these wagons. Wagons are a necessary, useful, and key element in the delivery of cargo. But the point here is that the whole assembly is moving in the right direction.
That is, in essence, project management is a tool of coercion, albeit mild, and meaningful, but coercion, and not to make life easier for the project manager, which, of course, is possible, but not at all necessary.
Let me give you one more example. As part of the project management, a document template is implemented, say, a weekly report. But project manager Marina continues to fill out the report according to her own rules and template, it is more familiar and convenient for her. Does this mean that Marina works worse than others? No. But nevertheless, ignoring the defined standards, she may miss some issue in the report that is important for stakeholders, and the customer will spend more time reading it and, perhaps, miss a significant nuance or problem in the processes.
It is important to understand the reasons why project managers resist innovation and implementation of project management. Let’s take a look at these reasons in more detail.
Not Get Paid for it
In most organizations, compliance with project management rules is not financially supported in any way — there are no rewards for following procedures, nor punishments for violation. Project managers are rewarded/penalized solely in accordance with the results of the project. At the same time, compliance with project management procedures requires effort from the project manager — temporal and intellectual. And there are always not enough of them, because the leader can be an executor at the same time (analyst, programmer, etc.) or lead many projects in parallel and spend all available time on communication.
Unwillingness to Excessive Control by Top Management
Compliance with the rules of project management — preparing management documents, holding meetings, etc. — makes it easier for top management to control, but this may seem redundant and even dangerous to the project manager, so he will try to avoid all this. He fears that the documents submitted for general discussion or agreement may subsequently be used against him. For example, when a schedule is changed, stakeholders may refer to a previous version and comment or inquire about the reasons for missed deadlines, questioning the professionalism of the project manager.
Affection for Past Experience
Experienced project managers often keep everything in their heads and manage all tasks based on their knowledge of business processes and informal connections within the organization. And since this approach works, the project manager does not see the value in “putting on paper” information and following strict regulations instead of informal agreements.
But here it is worth noting that when moving to a new organization, all this experience risks being irrelevant. The same can happen to an experienced manager within the company if he is assigned a fundamentally new project. A manager can leave the company in the middle of a project or get promoted within the company, and then his entire network of informal connections will stop working, and the project that he led intuitively will be difficult to convey without losing important information.
Inability to Shift Responsibility to the Performer
Without following formal procedures — creating artifacts, holding meetings, moving through the stages of the project — it is much easier for the project manager in case of failure to shift responsibility for errors to team members and involved functions. Without project management rules, it is often impossible to determine whether the manager could have prevented or tracked the error in time, so the only person to blame is the assignee.
Compliance with the rules of project management can lead to additional tasks for the project manager. For example, as a result of a meeting with stakeholders, new instructions, expectations, and ideas arise that the project manager should implement. Artifacts that are created as part of compliance with the rules are subject to approval, and this takes time and may delay the next steps in the project.
Unwillingness of the Project Manager to Record their Experience
Experienced managers keep their knowledge in their heads, and experience difficulties in transferring it to a text format, because it takes time, which leads to the need to comprehend the existing experience. Gaps in control logic may come to light, and the whole experience is in danger of being questioned. This behavior is typical of managers who have grown from subject experts because expertise is largely based on personal knowledge and experience.
No Actual Issues
One of the axioms of project management says that the later a problem/error is found, the more expensive it will be to fix it. But the project manager does not want to spend additional effort on compliance with the rules until he sees problems in the ongoing project. Since the resources for the project are managed by the stakeholder, and not by the project manager, this argument may be beyond the scope of his reasoning. A classic example is bugs in the architecture of IT solutions that are imperceptible at an early stage, but manifest themselves in the later stages of a project when their correction will require reworking many of the already created elements. This leads, among other things, to an increase in the cost of support or a complication of the solution.
Lack of Demand for Project Management Tools by the Team or Stakeholders
Team members and stakeholders may find some of the tools, rules, and rituals provided and demanded by the project management redundant. For example, they may find it unnecessary to have a monthly meeting, as the team already “communicates every day.” The next weekly / monthly report also seems optional, especially when it comes to customers who are “already aware of everything.” In addition, the use of a number of tools is a burden for the team and seems to be putting them at risk. For example, you need to prepare a report on tasks at the weekly planning meeting, be responsible for the announced deadlines and talk about possible problems. This encourages project managers not to follow the rules in the future, and management documents are not discussed, and not provided for discussion, which increases the likelihood of errors.
So, it can be said that the project manager may have quite a few reasons not to welcome the implementation of project management rules and tools, and work with these objections should be carried out in parallel with the process of implementing OPM standards in the organization. Does this mean that a project manager is bad for project management? Of course not. Conscious and professional managers understand the value of management tools, meetings, and other activities, and their meaning in the context of the organization, and do not sabotage them. Unfortunately, while this has not become a common practice, there are only a few such PMs in any organization.
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