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we have a small team of highly technical people and one of them is the project manager for the project. The person who is in PM role for this project is experienced and has previous project management experience also. So it felt 'natural' for him to be PM the project.

But, he is also a resource for the project.

Should this be the case? is it 'normal' ?

Clearly, that person staying off the critical path is key, but what are the possible problems/risks that we may not have thought of?

  • 6
    So many innocent cats would be alive today if PM's would be a part of the working team instead of just managing projects .. I think the problems mainly exist when those PM's have no root knowledge to do the work on their own, or at least they don't really care, and judge situations based on their poor factual knowledge, imo. – yoda Feb 8 '11 at 18:28
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    This is a great question.. – Fergus Feb 16 '11 at 1:41
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    @yoda Its true. Not only PMs but also leads and managers. IMO leads should do as much work as any other resource in addition to leading the team. That is the only way they understand things better. Any less work and they don't really care. – Mugen Jul 22 '11 at 10:51
17

Is all about your business and business needs. I can mention a few risks that you will have by using a PM that is also a resource, but if the alternative does not work for the business then you have to accept the risk.

The few risks of using PM as a resource are:

  • Objectivity in change of processes
  • Timeline creation might not be accurate
  • If you lose the PM, you also lose a resource
  • Team building, either the team is going to respect the PM's coding or the developers' PMing (I hope this brings the point across)
  • Because of PM advance knowledge on code, he might think he can do a better job than a peer developer

You also ask if this is normal. I think is more normal than you might expect. Even in multi-national companies this phenomenon is observed. Management and the PMO office need to be on top of these scenarios to avoid issues and minimize risks.

In general I don't think this is absurd, if the business supports the model.

  • +1, well put, but isn't this situation normal in small shops? – peterchen Feb 9 '11 at 14:10
  • Are you Swedish/Norwegian @Geo? Lose always seems to be mispelt loose there :) – Chris S Feb 16 '11 at 22:21
  • @Chris, Neither. Just a lousy English writer :) – Geo Feb 17 '11 at 0:15
  • "If you lose the PM, you also lose a resource" - I don't see how this is a negative point. When you recruit the next PM again you again get another resource too. :) – Mugen Jul 22 '11 at 10:57
  • "Timeline creation might not be accurate" - I think timeline creation might in fact be more accurate. A PM who is involved in the actual work will make better estimates for the sole reason that he is more closely involved with the work. – Mugen Jul 22 '11 at 11:02
8

I work for a consulting company. Almost all of our project managers are also resources on the project. I think it actually helps the process. Being a resource on the team can give them additional insight into the status of the project. They have more insight to spot risks before they happen. They can also keep a closer eye on the schedule of the project, because they are working it every day.

5

PMBOK says that a PM can be a resource, but should stay away of critical path. I think that for most projects it's the most practical approach. In other words, you can't have a PM completely out of project activities.

4

No. A major benefit of having a dedicated project manager is having an impartial view-point on the best way to solve problems and/or meet the project's goals.

If the PM is a resource, they will have skin in the game, as it were. They would lose the impartiality (to the detriment of the project and the sponsor's goals.)

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    Hey Mark, won't you agree that dedicated or not, being part or not, impartial view or not, they will still have skin in the game? At the end of the project, if it was not successful it is mainly because of the PM. I am sure the PM will be able to list all the specific reasons why it was a failure, and how it was not his/her fault. Is it? I gave you a point either way because I think dedicated PMs bring value to the overall structure of the Program or Portfolio. – Geo Feb 9 '11 at 17:53
  • Thanks for the point :) The kind of skin you're talking about is the right skin to have in the game: get the right solution delivered in the right way. An example of the bias I'm alluding to is that if the pm is a developer, they'll push for development based solutions and developer bias when things go wrong. Same if pm is a designer, plumber, electrical engineer, etc. – Mark Phillips Feb 9 '11 at 18:17
3

This is OK only for small teams and small projects.

But bear in mind that managing a larger project is a full-time job in itself. So by involving a PM in task execution you're risking that they'll fall into the trap of bad multitasking. As a consequence, the overall project performance will surely suffer.

  • What are the warning signs of the trap of multitasking? Do you have any advice on how to spot multitasking before it becomes a problem, or how the OP could manage the resulting risk? – Mark C. Wallace Oct 5 '12 at 10:49
  • The leading indicator of bad multitasking is the feeling that you start loosing control of what's happening in the project. Also, people start complaining that it takes you too long to answer their emails; visual indicator: a growing list of unread messages in your inbox. – Marek Kowalczyk Oct 10 '12 at 5:46
  • The only way out of bad multitasking is to freeze a good part (20-50%) of your work and focus your efforts on the reminder. But if after a while you can't keep up with upcoming new tasks, you may simply need to revise your span of responsibility. Nobody can do an infinite amount of work, regardless of techniques used! – Marek Kowalczyk Oct 10 '12 at 5:55
1

For some years, I was a PM and a resource on my project, and I'm not so enthusiastic about this situation. Development requires a lot of focusing, while PMing requires to open up to the team, its needs, its schedule situation and so on. I'm not sure both can be done seriously by the same person. Somebody above said that the PM should stay out of the critical path. Maybe it's the solution, but I'm not sure it's really a good idea...

1

Considering the way the question is labelled, I would answer that it's possible, but not mandatory for a project to be successful.

A PM may be a resource if the project is small enough so that PM is not a full time job (eg : be their own BA, own dev, own tester, etc...).

I would recommend a junior PM not to be a resource in the team, to avoid the firefighter bias of "I didn't update my risk charter or computed my budget because I was busy fixing an issue in the project".

There are also pros and cons of managing a project comprised of people doing a job we've already done ourselves as resource :

PROS :

  • you "know" what is going on, that gives the PM a better sense of risk appreciation
  • PM gets far greater insights in term of estimates
  • PM is less dependent on resources to take decisions

CONS :

  • it's awfully difficult not to micro manage : delegation is about setting goals, not the way to achieve them. And having achieved them before, it's hard not to have a strong opinion on HOW to reach them
  • firefighting : when an issue arise, it's harder to stay away from it and let the project team do its job
  • when managing junior resources, or part time resources with limited availability, they may get the sense that it's OK if they don't deliver as the PM is knowledgeable enough to step up and do it

Now I sense in the question that there is some challenge about the legitimacy of the person claiming PM role to do so, and for this, the answer is quite easy :

  • if there is no management involved in this, then it should be a consensus among your team
  • if there are external people involved, there should be some sort of governance defining who appoints the PM : it can be your manager, rules such as "the person deadling with the customer is the PM", etc...
0

When the plan has project management tasks, especially if they are within or part of a dependency - the PM is normally the resource.

  • This doesn't answer the question: "What are the problems or risks?" Consider making an edit to address this part of the question. This will ensure that your post helps future visitors. Good luck! – jmort253 Oct 4 '12 at 8:27
  • "he (the PM) is also a resource for the project. Should this be the case? is it 'normal' ?" is the question I was answering. – Fergus Oct 5 '12 at 15:36
0

I have seen great value in somewhat of an informal trickle-down-hierarchy:

  • There is the responsible VP managing a portfolio of projects
  • She communicates with the offical PM(not a resource) which might PM more than one project
  • He works with a 10-30% resource that is the day-to-day PM(70-90%)
  • and she then leans on a in-the-grub (90%) senior/lead-programmer/whatever.

It might seem excessive and the process is in no way formalised: No scheduled meetings from level to level, no intermediate deliverables and status-reports.

That seems to work excellent because of the gradual shifts in focus without too far distance from top to bottom ( 1 VP, 1PM, 1day-to-day PM, 1lead-programmer, 2 programmers, 1 part-timer)

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