How Important is the Role of a Dedicated Project Manager?
We’ve already talked about how important it is to have both focus and effective control mechanisms in place in order to manage buffers effectively. One way to do this is to assign dedicated project managers, who can be tasked with creating focus and ensuring control.
We sometimes encounter resistance to the notion of dedicated project management resources, because it’s felt that this sort of person will not be able to answer technical questions. This is a red herring.
The project manager’s job is not to answer technical questions. The project manager’s job is to create focus and ensure control. Hecan act as ‘gatekeeper’ for those who do answer technical questions; to ensure that their time is not diverted by unnecessary queries and technical questions. To give them the space and time they need to focus.
Focus is vital.
One of my team recently had the unfortunate experience of returning to a site to find that effective buffer monitoring hadn’t embedded itself within the organisational culture. Projects had been allowed to slip back into the black; scheduled delivery dates were being missed. There were various reasons for this (mostly around lack of focus and too much multi-tasking), but only one solution.
Back to basics: reduce the number of active projects; reduce multi-tasking; make buffer management transparent for all and monitor performance against the buffer regularly and frequently. When things start to slip, we do often see a tendency towards expediting and a renewed increase in active projects. All too often, senior decision makers want to see things being done – even if they aren’t the things that most need to be done.
Could a dedicated project manager have maintained tighter control?
One has to think the situation might have been better. If the same resource is responsible for ensuring the transparency of buffer management and managing projects, while at the same time carries some responsibility for delivering project tasks, then isn’t there a conflict? How easy will they find it to dedicate time to create focus across all teams and ensure control when the lure of progressing a task is great?
If the project manager has to be drawn from a resource pool, ensure – above all – that she is not drawn from a constrained resource. Even where the project manager is drawn from a non-constraint resource pool, she needs to be a resilient and single-minded professional, capable of saying ‘no’ to senior management when they ask her to devote her time to progressing tasks.
No project can afford the project manager’s focus to slip away from the big picture. When her focus slips, so does that of her teams. Team members begin to see the individual tasks which make up the project, rather than the whole. Losing sight of the big picture is something Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) shows us we cannot afford to do; there is only one truly effective way of viewing projects and measuring performance.
The project manager’s attention needs to be focused on the Critical Chain, progress along it, and the percentage of the project buffer that has been consumed.
This is why, sometimes, a dedicated project manager focused on these measurements, who can manage all tasks and resources to ensure the fastest possible progress along the critical chain – exploiting and subordinating all tasks and resources to the constraint and creating the necessary working environment for all staff to do so – can often be well worth the additional expense.