Not everyone believes in project managers. Some people say project managers are simply bureaucrats that push paper and don't provide value to the project. Others think project managers know about academic but not about the real work of the project.
It is true that not every project manager is competent, and even the capable ones are not perfect. (Just as engineers, lawyers and salespeople are not perfect.) Poor project management can certainly hinder the success of the project.Thomas Mochal
However, I think poor project managers are in the minority. Project management is a tough job, and it does not take too long to see what makes project managers valuable.
Here is my perspective.
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- It seems intuitive that any major work initiative will be more successful if it is planned ahead of time and managed proactively (compared to projects that are planned poorly and managed ad-hoc.) The person that plans and manages projects is the project manager. So, project managers are valuable at this fundamental planning/managing level.
- Some people believe that a good project manager can be successful on any type of project, regardless of whether they have any subject-matter expertise. Not everyone agrees. I believe a skilled project manager with no subject matter experience is better than a subject matter expert without project management experience. The project manager provides value to the project by applying the proactive planning and management discipline. The rest of the project team can fill in the subject matter expertise the project manager may be missing. On he other hand, the team is not likely to fill in the project management expertise if they do not have that skill.
- The project management processes used on a project must be scaled based on the size and complexity of the work itself. Small projects need less rigor and structure. Large projects need more. A good project manager knows how to apply the right processes based on the size of the project.
So, here is my bottom line. Project managers that know what they are doing, implement proactive project management practices and apply processes scalably can contribute significantly to the success of the project. Do all project managers meet this criteria? No, of course not. Those that do are the real rock stars of project management. If you are a project manager, strive to this level of knowledge and performance, and then you too can rock on!