Project Managers are from Jupiter


The idea that ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ has been well documented. A lesser known astrological fact that you may not be aware of however, is that Project Managers (regardless of gender) are from Jupiter. It’s true.* (*not really)

You may be thinking, that this actually explains a lot.

How many times have you been on a project where your PM schedules you for a status meeting and then – later in the day – asks you why you are late with a deliverable? ‘Uh…because I was in your status meeting, not at my desk getting my work done?!’, might be a common response to such a question that could only be posed by, and make logical sense to, someone from another planet, not governed by the same laws of time and space that ordinary earthlings are bound to abide by.

Or, what about the classic PM request, ‘Please make sure that you provide assumptions to support your estimates’. Or, the ever popular questions, ‘What is your percent complete?’, or ‘What is your estimated completion date for that deliverable?’

For the Project Manager’s out there, how many times during a project do you have a team member looking back at you – like you are from another planet? ‘You want me to attend meetings, and still get my work done?’, ‘You want me to estimate a task and write assumptions when I don’t even have detailed requirements?’, ‘You want me to guess at how much longer something is going to take when I have this project plus 3 others on the go?’.

So now that you know that your PMs, with all their illogical and nonsensical questions and requests are actually from another planet, does that make things fall into place a bit better?

Kidding aside, projects require different roles and skills sets. And while we all share common goals on a project such as delivering on time, on budget, to the agreed upon scope and level of quality – and other such ‘traditional’ notions of project success – sometimes the particular goals and motivators of the various team members and roles are not all that well understood.

As such, I thought I would take the familiar ‘Men/Mars, Women/Venus’ metaphor to outline a few ‘quick hits’ in terms of how a PM’s brain (generally speaking) is wired for hopefully an increased understanding and appreciation for how things work ‘on our planet’.

Scope & Requirements

Project Managers care about scope. No big shock here. We want to ensure it is well defined so that as a team we can deliver it. While it’s the PM’s job to manage scope, all team members have a role to play. PMs and team members alike should keep an eye out for areas where scope has increased in size and complexity, and raise flags accordingly so the PM (or other roles as required) can go back to the customer to discuss these variances.

Schedule & Budget

Projects have schedules and budgets and the PM typically owns the responsibility for managing these items. That said, the PM doesn’t (though this would certainly be cool) get to define the schedule and budget; rather, it is defined by collecting inputs from the project team, in accordance with requirements and expectations from the client. Inputs include things like work packages, tasks, dependencies, estimates, assumptions and risks.

While it may be the PM facilitating the process of bringing all of this together, it is being done for the benefit of the project where each every team member has a stake and is accountable in their respective area. As the project moves along, the schedule and budget defined at the outset of the project needs to be kept up to date and reported against. This involves understanding things like task percent complete estimates, target dates for deliverables and milestones, and updated estimates/forecasts.

Communication (and collaboration)

If you’ve ever worked on a project, you’ve probably seen a meeting invite or two from your PM. PM’s schedule meetings; it’s part of what we do as part of the ‘Communication Knowledge area’ to bring the right people together to get things done. Sometimes it’s about collecting inputs for a ‘PM deliverable’ like a SOW, or a CR. As these are deliverables that the project team will be delivering to and will be accountable for, you should hope that your PM is involving the team and not working in a vacuum on these sorts of things.

Sometimes meetings will be about facilitating the process of getting teams and stakeholders connected with each other to ensure everyone is getting what they need from one another. Has the BA had sufficient time with the correct mix of clients, stakeholders and subject matter experts to collect and document the requirements? Has the development team had sufficient access to the BA to fully understand the requirements that they are working against? Does the QA team know what they’re testing? Are there nuances with the requirements documents that may not be readily apparent without some face time with the development team? These are (among other things) the things that keep PM’s awake at night! As such, during the day (and sometimes nights as well), PMs schedule meetings to ensure these questions are answered – for everyone’s benefit.

Last but not least – and despite some traditional ideas of space dwellers (or PMs for that matter) – we want harmony in the universe. Just like you, we want to get things done on time/budget/scope/quality, all while doing great work, doing the right thing, keeping our customers happy and hopefully enjoying ourselves in the process. Let’s work together to get it done!

Thanks for reading. Live long and prosper1.

1Reference: Spock


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Filed under Management, People, Project Management

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