My friend from UK - Richard Newton - has published a very interesting article which tries to answer this question. However, I don't think he managed to look at all the angles and give appropriate answers.

Therefore, I would like to ask you: Do we really need project managers?

I'm looking forward to some interesting perspectives.

PS: The article I mentioned can be found here: Why Do We Need Project Managers?, in case anybody is interested in reading it.

6 Answers 6


If you throw 10 random people together and assign them a complex, challenging task, with no other direction than 'go', these individuals will naturally evolve and gravitate to certain roles. This is a very natural phenomena and is defined by Belbin and others. Even if there is conflict with a certain role, it works itself out as the team gels with little to no outside intervention. (Yes, some "teams" have self imploded.)

One of these roles is a leadership role; Belbin defines this as Monitor Evaluator. This is the de facto PM. Another role that emerges is the Coordinator, the de facto PMA or project controls.

This is a natural result of people working together. So the answer to this question goes beyond some induced theory. Whether you think you need a PM or not, one will emerge anyway.

  • Interesting perspective. So... you are saying that the need for a coordinator & leader of the group is a natural tendency, not just a business need. However, why do you think this happens? Dec 11, 2011 at 15:45
  • 2
    If someone isn't coordinating things, people end up doing their own thing. This leads to duplication, missing functionality, and other symptoms of an unmanaged project.
    – BillThor
    Dec 11, 2011 at 16:45
  • I only named two roles. Others would emerge, as well. I do not why that happens. Likely an evolved trait. Animals that run in packs exhibit similar traits. Dec 11, 2011 at 18:00
  • Wouldn't this be on a best case scenario? What if there is a clash and two or more groups are formed without inter-cooperation? Like BillThor mentioned, they could end up each doing their own thing.
    – Jeach
    Dec 13, 2011 at 16:02
  • I would say most likely scenario. One way or another, conflict will be resolved, including the removal of a troubled team member or team disintegration. But, when teams pass the storming stage, you will see the roles at play. So, if you did not 'name' a PM, one will be there anyways serving in that role. Dec 13, 2011 at 16:29

That was one of my first lessons in the antepenultima year of master's degree:

  • We were teams of 6 people (across 130 students),
  • Every team in the class was free to choose to have a PM or to have everyone equal,
  • We'd go through ~40 projects in one year,
  • We were all the same kind of students, same background, no individual ability at the beginning.

We all started with self-organized groups. 50% of us failed our first projects and others got angry, mostly because one person didn't respect the deadline or because of the discordant directions we took (Our divergent was > 0).

Third or fourth project, we all decided to choose a PM, a quality person who'd provide the document templates, and 4 active workers. The PM had all credit to choose an option when several directions were available, and at the end of the year, the PM could decide how to assign the marks. We all performed properly at the 3rd project, met 95% of our delivery dates, and got on well much better together.

Most groups reused the same pattern on the 36 other projects of the year, albeit we switched roles between the workers, quality person and PM.

We did the experiment, and the answer was: Yes, everyone created equal, we needed a PM.



It depends on the definition of ‘project’.

In an organisation, not every (bigger) task needs to become a project governed by a project method or approach. An organisation should think if a task should be managed as part of day-to-day business or as a project.

If it is a project it needs a project manager to deliver the project. Project management is a skill set as is financial management or marketing management. That does not mean that every project manager role is a full time job.

If it is just a task it still needs a person (or manager) who delivers this task. But as it is now part of the day-to-day business no specific project management skills are needed. Frequently managers leading a larger task are called task force manager.

  • Why does a project need a project manager to deliver the project? Are you saying it is impossible for a team to deliver on a project successfully, without a project manager? I know of plenty of teams that successfully delivered something, even though they didn't have a project manager.
    – D.W.
    Oct 11, 2012 at 5:10

We need people to manage projects, but we don't need people with the "Project Manager" job title, unless it suits to have them. The role exists, whatever you call the person doing it! And the more complex the piece of work, and the greater the level of governance required, the more you need someone to take control and make sure that everything is being done correctly to protect the people, the organisation, and the wider stakeholder community.



  1. A project manager facilitates communication across different roles on a team and across the different stakeholders.

  2. A project manager helps coordinate efforts and resolve conflict.

  3. A project manager adds leadership and inspiration when it is needed, backs-off when it's not and, importantly; blocks other people from thinking there is a leadership vacuum and prevents people from misdirecting/inhibiting project performance.


Size typically determines how necessary a project manager is. For instance with a large ERP implementation each process owner has a grasp of what he/she does and tends to protect that area naturally. However, in order to acheive the overall objective of what is best for the group as a whole requires the ability to be neutral and objective when guiding change management give and take,this is usually only possible when the PM reports to someone other than the organization he is overseeing allowing a truely unbiased approach. His value is intrinsically tied to this as there will be give and take on all sides and without a control point like a PM one interest will naturally dominate another weaker or less vocal group.

  • 2
    "Size typically determines how necessary a project manager is" - sweet! so if I gain more weight, I become more necessary! Wait till I tell my boss about my new plan.
    – MCW
    May 31, 2013 at 18:25
  • 2
    Size?? I run home projects with only two resources, my wife and me. Are you suggesting since my project is very small that it is not being managed? The way she barks orders at me it certainly feels managed. Jun 1, 2013 at 10:57

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