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04 May 2014

Trusting the Project Team

Vikas Gupta asks on Google Plus, pretty well answering his own question:
How much can/should a Project Manager interfere in the technical details of a project? For e.g. If a developer thinks that xyz is the most efficient way of implementing a functionality, is it unproductive for the Project team to have PM challenge that beyond a limit? I personally think that challenging the team members is ok, but a PM must trust the technical skills of team members and too much interference may demotivate the team.. Thanks in advance for your expert opinion!
 Discussion Link April 30, 2014

Project-Aria replied,
It is rare that a PM is just a PM.
Usually the PM also adds value by bringing technical expertise. Now the question here is: does the PM have the expertise in technical area in question. If yes, then yes. If no, then interference may be a dangerous path.
I would also note that communicate is a 2-way challenge. It is also important to all team members, including experts, to be able to explain their ideas and convince others. It is important for the expert to be able to communication without hiding behind a expert-cryptic language.
Apr 30, 2014

I think Vikas stated it well and correctly. Early in each design phase, the PM can ask the team to consider his personal favorite solution. The design team should then compare the various options for each architectural element and weigh them against each other. The result is a trade study that weighs the trade-offs and makes an objective recommendation of the best solution.

Unless the decision is very close, the PM should leave the decision to the results of the trade study. If he does not, it can reflect badly on him.
  • It indicates that he did a poor job of selecting his team.
  • It insults the design team and, as Vikas said, demotivates them.
  • It may indicate that he failed to have the design team include his favorite option in the trade study.
  • It may indicate that he failed to properly define the design parameters.
  • It indicates subjectivity, a failure to rely on objective evidence produced by the trade study.
  • It turns the time and cost of trade studies into waste.
  • Failure to trust often results from projection; that is, expecting others to do what you would do. Therefore, it raises issues about the PM's ethics.
  • Overriding the results of a trade study can create an appearance of impropriety (for example, the PM appears to take a bribe from the selected vendor or subcontractor).
As Project-Aria stated, the PM may bring enough technical expertise to deserve the right to override the design team; but he had better have convincing technical reasons for his actions and had better own up to his mistakes that made his action necessary.

If your experience has shown you more reasons why a PM should or should not override the decisions of his design team, I'd like to hear from you in the comments.

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