What are the pros and cons of incorporating a project manager into a research team? If anyone has any experience doing so, do you have any suggestions about how to make the program manager as effective as possible?
Often a research project has a different atmosphere than a product group. Open-ended research is hard to plan. You can't plan for breakthroughs, but breakthroughs are exactly what researchers are seeking. A significant part of a researchers' time is figuring out exactly which problems to work on (or working on problems that go nowhere). And, research is about risk; if it wasn't high risk, it wouldn't be research. So, in some sense, research is about chaos. At the same time, project managers seem to prefer order: e.g., carefully planned timelines and schedules and milestones. I can imagine this might drive the researchers crazy -- and conversely, I can imagine that a research environment might drive a program manager crazy.
Also, in many research programs there is already a leader with an exciting vision who can corral and inspire folks, but who isn't necessarily the best at the nitty-gritty details of project management. And, researchers tend to respect those who can "talk shop" with them and who are in command of the intellectual, substantive stuff. So, this means that a project manager probably cannot expect to be the leader that everyone looks up to and might not be in the best possible position to tell the researchers what to do.
So, is a project manager a good fit for this kind of atmosphere, and if so, how can a project manager best add value and make the relationship work well?