August 21, 2009

Brief tip 8: Add value beyond administering

A little while since my last post. Looking back (wine, food and beaches in Tuscany and later Spain - then a surprise U2 concert as a birthday present from my wife), I can't say I got the priorities wrong. Good project management. :-) Anyway, here is another "brief tip":

As a project manager, try to add value beyond administering the project

The last year, I have completed my PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner certifications. In PRINCE2 there is a pretty clear advice that the role of the project manager “…is to manage, not to do”. While I see it as important that the project manager don’t loose her view of the big picture because of working on details, I actually think that it usually works better if the project manager can add some subject matter expertise or otherwise contribute beyond administering the project.

Some project managers have a technical background before being promoted to their own level of incompetence (the Dilbert Principle in all its beautiful essence). For these, taking part in architectural roles or detailed design may be a good way to be involved beyond the project administration. Others may contribute to testing, others again will have a strong hand on the business case and marketing plans.

I think you get some things for free if you as a project manager participate actively in the project (“doing”, if you will…). For instance if you take a role as a tester[2], you get project content and status under the skin “for free” that you would otherwise have actively worked to obtain.

For the team to see that the project manager is working along them (a Scrum master might very well be a developer for the most part of his time) can also be motivating and it shortens distances for communication and makes it easier for the project manager to detect problems early through informal channels.

[1] – PRINCE2 is a trademark of the Office of Government and Commerce in the UK and other countries

[2] – I do agree with PRINCE2 that the project manager should not be the same person as responsible for quality assurance though. If at all possible, it will make life easier for everyone knowing that there is two different persons filling those roles.


  1. The Seattle Seahawks continue to defy convention, winning games with a blueprint that differs from the other 31 teams in the league.

  2. Great PRINCE2 Course article. You can get PRINCE2 courses and certifications in Dublin, Ireland here: