Thursday, 11 April 2013

Must project managers be technically savvy?

On the question 'must project managers be technically savvy' posed by Luc Richard (link), my answer is a fairly obvious 'yes', however I will qualify it by saying that the project manager does not need to be the technical architect, indeed I judge that the two roles should be completely separate in teams of greater than 3 people. Richard makes some strong claims:

On estimating
"In order to create a project plan, you must be able to estimate how much effort is required to complete all of the required tasks. Needless to say, you can't estimate effort unless you truly understand what's involved in designing and implementing those features."
On scheduling:
"A project manager must be able to schedule activities in a logical sequence."
Assuming you are starting from the conventional project management perspective you will find that the questions raised by Richard are, as it happens (coincidence?), the defining areas of the PMBOK. But a careful reading of Richard's responses reveals something else, an underlying assumption that the project manager does everything.

In response to Richard's assertion that "To be an effective project manager, you must be capable of designing and developing the solution yourself." I claim to be an effective project manager you must instead develop skills and sensitivities for getting the best out of heterogeneous, multitalented, multidisciplinary, mixed gender, culture, age, experience teams!

Unless of course you're working on a team of 1! (or 2, or 3)

As an antidote to too much PMBOK and too much Technology I strongly recommend having the following on your bookshelf:

Beck, K. (2000) Extreme Programming Explained : embrace change, Reading, MA, Addison-Wesley.

Brooks Jr., F. P. (1995 (1987)) The Mythical Man-Month : Essays on Software Engineering, Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

Cockburn, A. (2002) Agile Software Development, Indianapolis, IN, USA, Pearson.

Cohn, M. (2006) Agile Estimating and Planning, Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson Education.

Demarco, T. & Lister, T. (1999) Peopleware: productive projects and teams, New York, NY, Dorset House Publishing.

Kidder, T. (1981) The Soul of a New Machine, New York, NY., Little, Brown and Company. Hachette Book Group.

Mcconnell, S. (1996) Rapid development: taming wild software schedules, Microsoft Press.

Poppendieck, M. & Poppendieck, T. (2003) Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit Upper Saddle River, NJ, USA, Addison Wesley.