September 25, 2006

Project Leader is a Project Resource

Project leader is often seen as a very special person on the project: like his time and presence are worth more compared to the other team members.

There is no doubt that project needs this one person, and also that people need to know who makes the decisions and helps resolve the problems. But looking from a different angle, project leader is just another person on the project. He has specific tasks. He needs to do his job just like everybody else. Other people should use the resources of the project leader as needed: his skills and influence are just another resource of the project.

People should not blindly report everything to the project leader but only report the things that he can actually resolve or help resolve. Everything else is a waste of time. If the project leader demands reports purely because he “wants to know” and “be in charge”, than he is either:
  • Sick or
  • He doesn’t trust his people
Both things are deadly for the project. :)

To explain this better, here is an example.

I worked on the project which had a project leader who was very resourceful people manager. As a matter of fact, he was sometimes too “sensitive”. When he would see two people having problems, he would immediately interfere and tried to help them (with best intentions). However, everybody knows that sometimes the third person cannot resolve the personal problems between the two – it looks as if they need “adult supervision”. Also, the third person will probably misunderstand something because it is simply too much for him to get a grip of the situation.

So here is what happened. My colleague said something about other person he had problem with to the project leader. The problem was not big but only some job responsibilities were temporarily mixed somehow. The project leader immediately had his view of the problem. He went to the person in question, said that it is not his place to interfere with the work of my colleague. This person was of course offended because he hasn’t done anything wrong: only trying to help! Aggressively, but trying to help.

After that, my colleague had problems because he had harder time getting the help he needed: other colleague was always hesitating to help and my colleague hesitated to ask because he knew that the other colleague was offended.

My colleague didn’t know that such a thing would happen, he only complained to the project leader because he needed to say that to someone. But one should always think in this way:
“What will my project leader do if I say this or that to him? Will he resolve the problem? Will that push project forward or backwards?”
No project leader is perfect. You have to know them well to be able to use them for the benefit of the project.

Use project/team leaders wisely!

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