Project Reporter

In once joined a team as a project manager and one of the first things I noticed was the lack of testers. Every team member was a developer and while they did just fine on the design and analysis, QA was lacking.

“No problemo, I’ll do an extra round of testing. It’ll help the team and the customer. It will force me to be more aware of the details of the project.”

Experienced project managers know that this is not a great idea. I soon learned that this kind of multitasking leads to a Jean-Claude Van Damme-style split.

As a tester, my main goal was to make sure quality was high. That means favouring a slower delivery over the deadline. I’d rather double-check a feature than release it.

As a project manager, I was focused on the project plan. Are we on track? The instinct is to let something slip that “looks fine” in order to reassure the customer that things are according to the schedule.

Those are two very different incentives. The tester will not needlessly postpone a release. The PM will not skimp over something that’s obviously broken. But in the grey middle zone, there’s a lot of room for conflict.

Whenever a project manager is also responsible for the outcome of the project, they have a conflict of interest. In a lot of cases, they are the Guardian Of The Gantt Chart. Their sole purpose is to deliver on a promise their superiors made. If the project goes over budget or misses the deadline: that’s on them. It’s almost impossible to report the project status objectively if your personal ass is on the line.

Even dedicated PM’s suffer from this. That leads to a simple conclusion: if you want objective progress reporting, the reporter should not have a vested interest in the project.

A project manager should be an auditor, a bureaucrat. They can have skin in the game in another team, but should not be responsible for the outcome of the project they manage.

A project manager should not be a leader.

They should be a reporter.


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