Technical Authority

Project managers often tell me that, as project managers, they do not need to understand the technology or technical issues because the technical resources working on the project will be responsible for the technical detail. Unfortunately, in the IT environment today, it is important for all project managers to be well-versed in the relevant project technology (including its applications and processes) and be able to communicate on technical issues with the "techies." The majority of organizations that employ project managers insist that the project managers be able to take technical decisions and that they possess the necessary technical skill sets to be on a similar level as the technical staff.

I have heard many IT resources complain bitterly about project managers who haven't got the foggiest notion of what needs to be done technically. The result is often that many of these resources simply carry on with their own development process and view the project manager only as an administrative manager who coordinates time sheets and ensures the delivery of status reports.

Project managers who are not well versed on the technical level find themselves (1) isolated, (2) lacking in credibility, (3) not consulted technically on major development issues, (4) not taken seriously, and (5) possibly even provided with false information. Project managers who understand the technology and can use it practically can apply such knowledge with outstanding results. Project managers also need to be certain that they have obtained the necessary project authority from the project sponsor and then communicate this to all stakeholders. This senior executive involvement often does the trick!

I always encourage project managers to make technical decisions if and when an opportunity arises, or to be involved in any way possible, by playing the role of facilitator or negotiator with the staff.

Sun Tsu said

If the general's employment of his mind is not in harmony with the army, even though the formation's lightness and heaviness are correct, and the front and rear are appropriate, they will still not conquer the enemy.

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