A bit like an insurance comparison website or an interrogative receptionist at the Doctors’ surgery; sometimes you can’t get something done without a Project Manager (PM), even if you’d rather not. For a whole host of reasons, some projects will be allocated a PM. Often these are complex, technical, or have a fixed time frame and are bound to stray over budget, time, scope or all the above.
Sometimes the organisation assumes a PM is needed on any project, bringing structure, organisation or a bridge between the deeply technical people and those who cling to their Filofax and desk calendar but who’s money or blessing are required to get the thing done. Sometimes just having a person with dedicated time to knit everything together in a way that allows everyone to see where they fit and why the work is being done without the distractions of a competing day job can be a good way to make sure the work gets done as easily as possible.
What about the octopus?
“When not in pursuit of prey the octopus hides itself in a hole between rocks and covers itself with stones and shells. Like its victims it seems to be active chiefly at night and to remain in its nest during the day.” (contributors, 1911)
Just like the Doctor’s receptionist or the comparison site, although they all do a similar job, PMs come in a host of different guises. Some will suit you and your organisation better than others. I think the good ones can be quite adaptable.
Over the years I have learned an important lesson about myself; I like change. And because I like change, I can adapt. I can adapt myself and I can adapt what I know to fit my circumstances. I think over time I’ve become quite adept at adapting. Enough alliteration.
Like the octopus, the PM spends much of their time making themselves invisible, getting others to do things without obvious coercion, finding out what has and hasn’t been done and smoothing the way if problems or barriers are identified. I’ve worked with PMs who like to be front and centre, making sure everyone knows about all the work they are doing and how difficult everyone is making their job. They tend to stick closely to processes and paperwork, using these to structure their time and justify why someone should stop what they are doing and finish the project task immediately. For some organisations and some projects that’s absolutely what’s needed. I’ve seen it in some of the large financial organisations I’ve worked alongside and noticed it’s a good fit for some. But I’ve noticed these people tend to move around companies a bit more than others, and they find it difficult to adapt to some organisational cultures.
Octopus employ a range of strategies to avoid predators including deimatic (bluffing) behaviour such as changing their appearance to distract or deter, and some even shedding limbs. The best PMs I’ve worked with are understated but they get things done by some secret recipe of stealth, tenacity and obsessive attention to detail wrapped up in a very personable, unflappable and confident exterior.