That’s right, I said it, nobody really manages projects. Not even project managers. Not even you. In fact, the term project manager is a misnomer.
- Project managers do not manage scope
- Project managers do not manage time
- Project managers do not manage costs
- Project managers do not manage projects
They also don’t manage integration, risk, quality, communications, procurement or any of the other nine knowledge areas of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) save one. There is really only one of the nine knowledge areas that the PM actually does manage.
So what is that one thing that project managers do manage? Project managers manage only one thing; people. It is through people that all of those other things are managed.
Consider time management as an example. How does a PM manage time? What exactly do they manage when they manage a schedule? You might argue that they manage the tasks on the schedule (they certainly don’t manage the speed of time passing). What exactly about those tasks do they manage? The estimated or actual duration? How would they "manage" that? The sequence? Perhaps. But that is simply the sequence of when the tasks are performed, that is, when persons will work on them. What else can they manage about a task? Susan de la Vergne, a fellow fan of emotional intelligence, had it right when she said "You Can’t Manage Time".
What about cost management? The PMBOK® Guide breaks cost management down into the following three areas: cost estimating, cost budgeting, and cost control. What does the PM "manage" when they manage costs?
- Cost Estimating – estimating the costs of the resources needed for the project. That is, the human resources (people) who will work on the project and the other resources that the people will install, use, or consume on the project.
- Cost Budgeting – Adding up the cost estimates to create a baseline. How is that simple tabulation a "management" activity? Answer- it isn’t.
- Cost Control – influencing the factors (i.e. people) that cause cost variances and controlling changes (caused by people) to the project budget. This is true management, however, the PM is managing the people, not the costs.
My point? The PMBOK® Guide is long on managing all the wrong things, the things that cannot be managed, and short on managing people. This is the inverse of what it needs to be. Projects are completed by people first and foremost. I dare you to show me a project that has no people on it – it doesn’t exist. Project managers manage people!
Even the one section of the PMBOK® Guide that is reportedly about people (Human Resource Management) is weak on managing people. The four parts of the HR Management section are:
- Human Resource Planning – Planning for the people we need on the project.
- Acquire Project Team – Get the people we need on the project.
- Develop Project Team – Invest in the people on the project.
- Manage Project Team – AHA! Eureka! I think I finally found what it is that PMs need to do on the project.
The HR Management chapter of the PMBOK® Guide is 21 pages long, representing just 6% of the PMBOK content (less back matter). That is ridiculous! HR or people management should be the largest section of the PMBOK and it should be first!
I know there are many of you out there who have drank the PMI Kool-Aid who I have completed offended. Even now you are preparing to unscubscribe from this blog. Before you do, I challenge you to show me where I am wrong. I dare you to step up and point out how project managers manage anything but people, or how project management can be performed or separated from managing people.
Show me and I will recant. I promise.