Project manager’s dilemma

I worked with great project managers whom all work was centered on them. They treated team members with dignity, they worked long hours, track risks, follow-up actions to conclusion, address organizational impediments, be the single point of contact for the project, take responsibility for project failures instead of pointing to team members,……

The reality is that project manager (PM) constructs a temporary organization, during the project duration, to provide the needed discipline to get things done. Meaning, without this temporary organization, business accomplishments cannot be realized. The whole gamut of project management is founded to address this time tested fact.

Organization’s success becomes dependent on this temporary ‘virtual’ organization, which its CEO is the PM. But this quasi CEO has no authority, while he needs to constantly deal with impediments in the parent organization that stands in the project way. In other words, there is invisible contract between the organization and the project manager, whereas the latter secures his job in return of fill-in for the leaders. This makes the PM’s role one of the riskiest jobs in IT industry.

Why we need to have a PM to tell the organization that it needs to change its practices? For every PM I dealt with, they believed that organizational impediments are the main project’s threats. They are less worry about technology issues, solution complexity, process aspects, training, deadlines and other familiar risks. In many cases such organizational impediments cannot be communicated but rather the PM keeps and cannot even document in the project status or impediments log. The worst quickly happens, when the PM’s reason of existence becomes dependent on the existence of such impediments. Do you think a PM in this environment would have any interest to make such impediments visible?

Agile organizations have leadership at their foundation, which can further reduce the value-add of traditional PM. However, many of traditional PMs transcended to process consultants, enablers for team empowerment, professional facilitators, and other Lean/Agile roles.

Finally, strong PM and Agile/Lean are for me contradictory premises. The more an organization needs a PM, the higher the chance it is not ready or willing to change its long-time organizational impediments.