Suppose that you happen to be riding in an elevator with a senior manager and you are asked the question, “Why do we need project managers?”. You have about 15 seconds to come up with a simple and general answer that is going to be meaningful to a senior executive to convince him/her that project managers are critical to the success of their business.
If you asked a number of people that question of “Why do we need project managers?”, you would probably get a broad range of responses. Many people would answer the question in terms of the typical things that project managers do such as planning and organizing projects and managing costs and schedules and those are all true but they are only tasks that project managers have been known to take on and many of those things that people typically associate with project mangers have a fairly narrow association with only a traditional, plan-driven project management role.
“Project Management” is a fairly broad role and there are many different kinds of project managers that have different kinds of specializations. The role is also getting even broader as a result of Agile Project Management. I think there is a need to take a broader view of what “project management” is and define it in terms that describe the role that an Agile Project Manager might play as well as a traditional, plan-driven project manager.
If you had to boil it all down to a simple explanation, I would say this:
A project manager increases the probability of a project successfully meeting its business objectives by applying the most effective combination of people, process, and tools to solve the problem and providing the essential leadership to guide the project in the right direction for it to be successful.
That’s a fairly broad definition but I think a broad definition like that is needed in today’s world in order to redefine the role that a project manager plays that isn’t limited to the traditional, plan-driven project management role that many people heavily associate with “project management”. We’ve got to start thinking of “project management” in broader terms than the traditional, plan-driven approach to project management that has been around since the 1950’s and 1960’s.
A lot of project managers get totally consumed in the tasks of doing project management and may not see the big picture that the real goal is not to just plan and control projects to meet cost and schedule goals the real goal is to solve business problems using whatever process is appropriate to solve the problem. That’s what the Agile Project Management courses I’ve developed are all about.