Doing Things Right

Here’s something disputable:

A project manager shouldn’t be interested in the project’s business objectives too much.

This fuzzy statement comes from a recent discussion with a friend of mine. When dealing with projects we often hear about business cases. Project Managers are obliged to update business cases. However, from the PRINCE 2 methodology’s point of view (for example), business cases are owned by Sponsors. And that’s good.

A Project Manager is not responsible for the business results specified in the business case; he or she is responsible for developing the agreed product, preferably within standard time, budget & scope constraints.

The project manager’s goal is the deliverable. The what, not the why.


Once again the quote comes to my mind:

“Management is doing things right, Leadership is doing the right things!” – Peter F. Drucker


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Pawel Brodzinski September 16, 2008, 7:00 am

    I don’t agree. If PM doesn’t care much about business goals most of the time they won’t be achieved since very rarely project sponsors are engaged in whole project. Usually they’re asked at the beginning and at the end. And someone has to keep an eye on business goals if they haven’t gone somewhere far away.Focusing on scope, budget and time only is comfortable approach for PM but definitely not the best tactic for an organization as a whole. Our companies don’t sell scope, budget and time. They sell products which fulfills some needs of the customer or even worse – they fulfills some needs of our cusotmer’s users.For me a project manager is someone more than simple administrator of a project team. You hit the nail in the head with your second quote – for me PM should be a leader, not only a manager.

  • Lech September 17, 2008, 7:00 am

    Thanks for commenting!Firstly, this entry was somewhat of a provocation – I never said a PM shouldn’t care about the project’s business benefits at all. He ought to. But he is not directly responsible for them. And I understand why methodologies I am acquainted with state that clearly enough.But there’s something interesting here… You wrote: “Our companies don’t sell scope, budget and time.” We seem to have different backgrounds. Concluding from your writings, you are more on the supplier side. I represent clients for roughly 10 years or so. Based on my experience, money gained is not the first thing one thinks when being the customer in a project. The customer is “buying” the project’s product (incl. service). First, it would be great if this product was actually delivered and properly implemented (contrary to the worrying statistics one can find in e.g. Chaos Group’s reports and real life experiences). Then, you have internal buy-in problems, culture shifts and all direct and indirect benefits one can imagine (resulting from process improvements, product support etc.). Time is an issue here, scope is an issue here. The price I pay as well. The money I get out of it is not of direct, immediate importance. It will be later on, when business results are actually available. OK, it should be. Alas, sometimes people forget what was the project’s business reason in the first place… Bummer.As a supplier, you sell things. You manage to lure a client. You do the project and hopefully – end up with a worthwhile product (i.e. deliverable). You cash up. If everything goes well, you have a long term relationship. It seems to be operations rather than strategy. Not always, but I daresay – more often than in the customer’s case. Perhaps in some instances a sponsor doesn’t feel the need to be involved in “yet another implementation”. Perhaps. Forgive me, I like to simplify things.In the customer’s case a project is usually a direct or indirect result of a strategic decision. Often a way to deal with change or problems. When I’m the customer, a strong and decisive Sponsor from my organization is key. He knows the “why” part much better than I do, he or she is usually involved in strategic planning and decision-making. Oftentimes, I need the sponsor to communicate with other stakeholders (buy in). Happily, I’ve never come across a situation were the sponsor was engaged only at the beginning and at the end of the project’s cycle. I’d be really worried if that was the case. I’d put it on the risk log early enough, and try to find a way to manage it ASAP. His or hers lack of responsibility would be my responsibility. Perhaps the project shouldn’t have started in the first place then?It is quite possible that business benefits can be observed months after the project is concluded. And it’s more probable that the project manager is gone after the project finishes than someone from top management.Another funny thing… In my current company (a corporation doing financial services) there’s an ongoing, fruitless battle between IT and business representatives doing project management. People from IT say they want to be called “Project Leaders” because they are not “only managers” or “simple administrators”. In response, the “business side” states that the position or role of “Project Manager” (i.e. the name) is a standard as much as the term “Project Management” itself. But that wasn’t your point. It simply came to my mind after reading the last paragraph of your comment.