Why Do You Tolerate “Chris” as a Project Manager?

Some engineers are meant to be project managers, and some are not. Some companies’ project managers are “accidental project managers”, meaning that they were thrust from the nest like a clown from a circus cannon; it was up to them to figure out how to fly. I continue to be astonished at how companies willingly expose themselves to such risk. What if this project manager doesn’t know that they alone are responsible for company cash flow and project profitability?

But what if they do know, but they just think it’s not important, that the technical stuff is more important? Or maybe they feel uncomfortable talking with clients about changes? Developing world-class project managers depends on five things: develop consistent processes that will make the PMs’ job easier; train them in project management; hold their managers accountable for reinforcing what was presented in the PM training; hold the PMs accountable; and mentor them.

One of my clients says, “You get the clients you tolerate,” meaning that sometimes we just have to break off a relationship with a client—for non-payment, disallowing legitimate scope changes, etc. We give away free business, and the client has no incentive to pay once we’ve submitted the report or design. What’s that worth to your firm? What if “Chris”, in spite of training and mentoring, just doesn’t measure up as a project manager? How much does Chris cost your company? Should Chris even be a project manager? Can you afford to tolerate Chris?