Project Management Roles – Project Management Portmanteau Blog

In another post for this blog (feel free to wax nostalgic for a moment), I brought up the idea of two types of change: Closeup Change and Big Picture Change. The former is the type of mundane project change we deal with all the time, while the latter is systemic, having a significant affect on the people in an organization and the way they work. Your project might be the cause of Big Picture Change or be affected by it. When you begin the initiation phase, realize that nearly all projects are going to have some element of Big Picture Change inherent in them. Even if you’re putting out release 16.45 of the Ancient-and-Well-Known System, there are going to be one or two people who will read that “What’s New” file (or equivalent) and have to change what they do, be it ever so slightly. On the other hand, your project may be the successful merging of Your Companys’ systems and associate processes with those of Their Company, which your side has recently acquired. In this case, you’ve got a multifaceted program on your hands, the most significant aspect of which is the changes for all the people involved, making attention to Big Picture Change absolutely critical. My point is that whatever your project is, you’ve got to account for the human beings involved. To do this you may have to broaden your net to find all the stakeholders. Build Big Picture Change into every project you do. More than this, you may have to become an evangelist. Someone must advocate for the need to update the user documentation, mount the internal communications campaign, or throw more resources at training. Too many projects deliver on the specs but then face resistance or outright rejection upon deployment because everybody thought the project was about the system or product, not about the people. If nobody else is trumpeting the urgency of addressing Big Picture Change, it’s up to you. For many of us, this requires a trip beyond the comfort zone, even into the offices of those much higher up in the organization. Go through channels if you must, but push for the audiences you need. Dig, dig, dig to find every single group of people that might be affected, even if they are far beyond your normal zone of operation. Then, to the best of your ability, be an evangelist for their success, and it will become your own. The target is painted on your head in bright crimson. Success depends on your ability to organize and lead. People from all over the organization come to you for information. You give informative presentations to Important People, who listen with rapt attention. You are… ***Insert Trumpet Fanfare*** The Project Manager! Even if you are just the project manager (no caps), you occupy a position of leadershipand, since you’re in the profession, it’s probable you like it that way. Being the leader gives you the opportunity to make a solid contribution, which contributes to your sense of self-worth and importance—not at all unhealthy. Having your work make you feel like a top dog in some sense is part of job satisfaction; however, if you becomeaddicted to that feeling, and can’t give up the steering wheel when you need to, you’re likely to veer into some project problems. Despite your position as leader, there’s nothing more important than the end goal of the project (or perhaps of the current project phase). There are going to be times when the best thing you can do to move the work forward is to step out of the way and let someone else lead. I worked a project with a very strong engineering lead several years ago, a guy with the respect of his techies (and me) and a real gift for dealing with people. In tech-heavy meetings, and in some not so technical, he took the reins. It happened very naturally, but I must admit I was uncomfortable with it at first. Wasn’t I supposed to be running the show? I could have asserted my authority (such as any PM’s is) and run those meetings, but interrupting the flow would have been awkward and counterproductive, and the results wouldn’t have been nearly as good. Sometimes I was afraid the client saw me as a weak project manager, and that didn’t feel good, but because my first concern was making the project successful, I set those feelings aside and let the engineering lead do his stuff. In the end, the client wound up respecting (even loving!) us both, because the product turned out so well. Sharing the leadership with my technical colleague didn’t mean I stopped managingthe project. There was still the budget to deal with, the schedule to manage, client issues to resolve (sure, they didn’t call him with scope-creeping requests!), all the fun stuff that’s the PM’s daily bread. I learned that to manage a project, you don’t have to lead every single bit of it.Sometimes it’s important to get out of your own way—and crucial to get out of other people’s.
What sort of personality is best for project management?
Insane? Well, insanity is more a pathology than a personality type, so let’s set that aside and consider an article I ran across a while back at It’s a well-reasoned piece and I recommend it as a good read, even though I don’t entirely agree with it.
The article divides the population into four groups:
Explorer/Imaginative. These folks are problem-focused and have a directive style (they prefer to tell people what to do).
Driver/Assertive. People like this also have a directive style, but are people-focused.
Coordinator/Catalyst. Focused on problems, the CC’s style is receptive (they prefer to get input and seek consensus when leading).
Administrator/Professional. This type has a receptive style and a focus on problems.
The author then overlays the four groups with Meyers-Briggs personality types:
Explorer/Imaginative: INTJ, INTP, INFJ, INFP
Driver/Assertive: ENTP, ENTJ, ENFP, ENFJ
Coordinator/Catalyst: ISFJ, ISFP, ISTJ, ISTP
Administrator/Professional: ESFP, ESFJ, ESTP, ESTJ
Then, the article says, the author “…made a subjective and coarse assessment of whether the population in the cell is strongly inclined towards project management leadership.” Based on that assessment, the suitability of the personality types to project leadership is as follows:
100% suited to leadership: INTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ, ESTJ
100% suited to following: INFJ, ISFJ,
Partially suited to leadership: INTP, ENTP, ESFJ, ESTP
Mix of follower and unsuited: ENFP
0% suited to leadership: INFP, ISFP, ESFP, ISTP
I have a couple of problems here:
M-B types vary along a continuum. The basic diagram of an M-B typing test is a bisected rectangle. The intensity of any one of your four personality traits varies depending on which side of the bisecting line it’s on and how close it is to that line. For example, an INFP can be super-introverted, with a score all the way out to the right, just mildly introverted, with a score close to the midpoint, or anywhere in between; they are not all “generally unsociable loners” as the article states. The degree to which one possesses the characteristics plays a huge role in the workings of one’s personality. The types aren’t one-size-fits-all boxes.
Personality type is not a straight jacket. If you end up in a profession your personality type isn’t particularly suited to, but you want to (or have to) stay in it, you can adapt and use various strategies to achieve success.
Every personality type has something to offer the project management role. If you play to your strengths andcompensate for your weaknesses (self-knowledge required!), it’s not impossible for you to be a great project leader, regardless of your M-B type, shoe size, or anything else.
The Wideman article has an interesting suggestion: put a project manager of the most suitable type in charge of each phase of a project. Put an Explorer in charge of the concept phase, let a Coordinator run planning, have a Driver get you through execution, and then finish off with an Administrator to close out and handle the life cycle.
This suggestion gets close to the idea of every type having something to contribute. Alas, I have never seen an organization with that kind of project management firepower. It’s one project and one lucky soul to manage it from stem to stern.
If that person is you, then you can handle it, with self-awareness and determination, regardless of your personality type.

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