6 Types of Ineffective Project Managers



Poor performing project managers generally have one of six traits. This, according to technology author Phil Simon.

Actually, his insights are applicable for any type of manager.

Pulling no punches, Mr. Simon’s commentary, “Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes,” was published in the November 2013 issue of InformationWeek.

As the author of “Too Big To Ignore: The Business Case For Big Data,” Mr. Simon nailed it.

From my consultant’s perspective, he adroitly describes the six types of project managers who unproductively go about their work.

tutor-606091_1280Excerpts of his categories:

1. The Yes-Man (with my apologies for the label’s implied sexism)

“Certain PMs fear conflict and agree to ev­ery demand that internal clients or senior management make,” he writes.

“But by failing to confront those with wildly different expectations, yes-men implicitly make promises and commitments that endanger entire projects,” he concludes.

2. The Micromanager

“Micromanagers need to let experienced consultants do their jobs,” he asserts.

“Depending on the timing, a PM might have to live with a high-level explanation of an issue,” he writes. “Should the mi­cromanager need more detail, she should bring consultants to steering committee meetings or have them write status reports providing more specifics.”

3. The Procrastinator

“The procrastinator often ducks clients and does not deliver promised results such as updated project plans, documentation or status updates,” he indicates.

“In such cases, people are likely to lose faith in the consulting firm and its individual consultants, whether the latter are contributing to the delays or not,” Mr. Simon warns. “The best PMs know when to use each tool in their kits.”

4. The Know-It-All

“Although being able to speak intelligently about issues is hardly a liability, PMs who do not engage their teams at key points do a number of inimical things,” he asserts.

“For one, they can alienate their consulting teams and make team members less likely to broach issues with them in the future,” he writes.

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

-Peter Drucker

“Second, by routinely not involving the experts, know-it-alls effectively minimize the contribution of those consultants, possibly causing clients to question the need for those consultants in the first place,” Mr. Simon explains. “Unless the consultant was specifi­cally hired in a hybrid role of consultant/PM, that individual should routinely involve the implementation team throughout the project.”

5. The Pollyanna

“Some PMs new to projects with large scopes are ecstatic when the project makes any progress at all,” he writes.

“…Pollyannas focus on trying to make everyone feel good about the current state. In this sense, they are like yes-men,” he contends. “PMs need to be able to call a spade a spade and not worry about sugar­coating dire situations.”

6. The Pessimist

“Pessimists fail to appreciate the gains that a team and its individuals have made in the face of considerable obstacles,” Mr. Simon writes.

“Sometimes PMs need to play the role of good cop, bad cop, shrink, confidant and devil’s advocate,” he admits. “Other times, they need to stroke the egos of key people or use project management techniques to move the initia­tive forward.” 

From the Coach’s Corner, recommended reading:  

4 Ways to Solve 6 Uncertainties in Project Management — Seemingly negative surprises have often been perceived as insurmountable, but that’s not always the situation in project management. By innovatively spotting opportunities in uncertainties, the results often exceed initial expectations in budgeting, quality and scheduling. 

Leadership and Planning Tips for Successful Project Management — In truth, projects fail because they’re not managed. Yes, there are varying degrees, but in reality they’re either managed or they’re not. The project manager must possess 11 leadership attributes to manage the team, stay on track and keep within budget. 

Best Practices for Many Companies Failing to Capitalize on Business Intelligence — A large number of business intelligence (BI) users admit they don’t effectively use it to identify and create opportunities for sustainable growth, according to a study. Their honesty isn’t surprising, but the high level of misused BI is.

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

-Peter Drucker


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.