Becoming a Leading Manager

[article]
Summary:

My most recent post, We Cannot Choose Between Management And Leadership, has struck a chord. That’s the good news. The bad news is I have not defined enough terms. Okay, I’ll attempt that now. And, thank you, gentle readers, for hanging in there with me, waiting for my crazy travel schedule this spring.

I see these managers in the organization:

My most recent post, We Cannot Choose Between Management And Leadership , has struck a chord. That’s the good news. The bad news is I have not defined enough terms. Okay, I’ll attempt that now. And, thank you, gentle readers, for hanging in there with me, waiting for my crazy travel schedule this spring.

I see these managers in the organization:

  1. Project managers, people who articulate the vision of the project. They may not be the people who actually set the vision of the project, but they carry the vision forward. When I have been a project manager, I have been the one to articulate the vision. I have often tried to do that with the project team. (I suggest this in Manage It! Your Guide to Modern Pragmatic Project Management .) If you can’t create the vision with the team, write the vision as a strawman and present it to the team as a draft and ask for help revising it, so that the vision becomes theirs.
  2. Program managers, people who articulate the vision of a program, a collection of projects with a common business purpose or goal. (I’m writing the Agile Program Management book now and will be writing this book in seriousness this summer.) Program managers are the face and voice of the program. They carry the vision of the program to the program team and the entire organization. They often write the vision alone for a large program. They may draft the vision for the core program team to review and accept.
  3. We often have first-line, middle, and, and senior functional managers. Some people call those first-line managers “resource” managers. Bah! They are not resource managers. If anything, they are supposed to be the people who are career-development managers. In non-agile organizations, the people who work on projects for a project manager in a dotted-line, are supposed to report to a career-development manager in a straight line for coaching, feedback and career development. And, that’s where the trouble starts. (This is why I am writing a series of Management Myths about managers, on Techwell. Start here with the myth of 100% utilization .)

If the functional managers are not setting the strategy, then the project and program managers are. Or, the people working on the projects are. How are they setting the strategy? First, by determining which projects and programs to work on first, second, and third. But, you say, how do they do that?

If the managers do not decide the ranking of the projects in the project portfolio, the people will. Each and every one of them. On their own. It may not be a concerted effort, but that’s okay. They will do so. And, if a project or program manager takes over, and says, “Hey, everyone on my project/program, here’s what we are going to do,” then that project or program manager is acting as a leader for the project portfolio.

Now, there are many more areas where management needs to lead. For example, by deciding which features are first, second, and third. That is a product owner/product manager decision. But, the project portfolio is the instantiation of the organization’s strategic plan. To me, management needs to start there. That’s not the only place management needs to make the big decisions, but it’s a key place.

For me, managing the project portfolio should be the role of #3 managers in my list. Not the project or program managers, but the functional managers. Do I provide guidance on how to manage the project portfolio for project managers? Of course, because I’m not an idiot

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for Stickyminds.com and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website, jrothman.com, as well on createadaptablelife.com.

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