Ditch project managers and upskill your teams to manage themselves

Project Management is required, but are project managers? This might be a controversial opinion but having worked at both large and small agencies, worldwide, I have seen firsthand the challenges of having dedicated project managers heading up teams.

Let's start at the beginning...

What are project managers for?

A dedicated project manager is usually given the following, necessary duties:

  • Task scoping
  • Planning and establishing a timeline
  • Progress tracking
  • Communication management
  • Team orchestration

Now, don't get me wrong, all of these tasks are crucial to the success of any project. The problem lies with offloading these tasks to a dedicated operative...

The challenge with dedicated project managers

Here are the most notable challenges I've observed throughout my time as a creative, caused by offloading project management to a dedicated operative:

  • Project managers create unnecessary distance between the client and the team. This can prevent collaboration and adaptive conversation with the client, who has invaluable business acumen, passion, and insight into their business goals.
  • Clients miss out on the passion and buzz that surrounds a team engrossed in a successful project workflow when project managers become the face of the project.
  • Members of the team lack crucial end-to-end oversight to prioritize and deliver goal-oriented work when project managers have exclusive understanding of the client's budget.
  • Project managers need more time to dissect client feedback and draft lengthy emails holding up the progress the project. All of this time is at the expense of the client, which could otherwise be spent on superior deliverables.
  • Members of the team are more likely to develop negative feelings towards the client, if strategies that have been pushed back by the client, are delivered to them with diluted rationale via a project manager.

Benefits of self-managed teams

Many agencies are aware of these challenges but still see project managers as a necessary speedbump: A project still needs to be delivered on time and on budget. However, it is my view that teams should be upskilled with the tools to manage themselves. Here's why:

  • Passion and expertise become more apparent when rationale comes directly from the source, resulting in increased client buy-in.
  • Members of a team are more capable of adapting their communication on the fly when delivering rationale over a simple phone call, since they have a full understanding of the work. This speeds up feedback turnaround time, unlike a project manager who would have to circle back to the team at every response.
  • Every member of the team inherit an end-to-end understanding of the client's needs when exposed to a project's scope and budget, thus delivering better goal-oriented work.
  • Members of the team become more considerate of client pushback when a closer relationship between them is nurtured.

This is not just hypothosis; having delivered huge and complex projects, without project managers. Here's just a few examples, where is living proof that self managed teams deliver on time and on budget...