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What are the strengths and weaknesses of a project manager?

This is a question for all project managers out there (hopefully those with several years of experience will answer).

From your experience, what do you think the top weaknesses and strengths of a project manager are. I think that the #1 weakness should be the lack of authority, while the #1 strength should be the non-accountability. I know that in small companies, the project manager is accountable, but I'm talking about medium to large sized companies where the project sponsor will shield you from accountability.
asked 9 years ago by anonymous

1 Answer

I first thought (from the title) that this was a typical interview questions, where the interviewer asks the project manager (this very stupid question) "what do you consider your strengths and weaknesses are?"

And you have a project manager replying with this (canned) answer:

- "Err, emmm I think my strengths like that I'm a team player, I'm well organized, I motivate the team members, and I'm very dedicated".

- "How about your weaknesses?", the interviewer asks.

And here you get a very stupid (yet surprisingly likable answer) such as:

- "Sometimes I am too dedicated for the project, and I work very hard, and I neglect my own life, just to get the project done on time and on budget. My significant other hates me for this. I don't know, but I just can't stop working!"

And the interviewer smiles, he just found his man (or woman)!

Thankfully, your question is original, you just want to know what the real strengths and the weaknesses of a project manager are. Well here they are:

Strengths of the project manager:

- Informal authority: It is not true that project managers don't have any authority, they have one, and it's informal, and it's sometimes better than the formal authority as it shields them from accountability and some of the company politics.

- Direct connection with top people in the company: Unlike team members, project managers usually have access to top executives in the company, who want the high level view of the project. These executives can embolden project managers and strengthen their informal authority.

- The project sponsor's spoiled child: Since the relationship between the project sponsor and the project manager is one-on-one, it is often natural for the project manager to become the project's sponsor protégé. Trust me, there is no better feeling than being someone's protégé. You can do whatever you want, within limits, while still being shielded by the person who protects you.

- Respectful: As a project manager, and in case you're not doing things terribly wrong, you get a lot of respect from your stakeholders and your team members.

- Trustworthy: When the company decides to promote you into project management or to hire you into a project management position, this means that the company trusts you. You are someone who is entrusted with the well being of your company's projects, in other words, your are entrusted with its future.

- No accountability: You're right for saying that the project manager is not accountable, and the project sponsor is the one is accountable. I'm not sure though that not being accountable can be considered a strength.

Weaknesses of the project manager:

- No ownership of resources: Project managers (typically) do not own the resources, the functional managers do. This means that resources, at any time, can allocated to another task even without informing the project manager, which usually screws up the schedule.

- Fear and anxiety: The project manager is always on his toes, he knows that he cannot get away with slack for long, people (stakeholders) expect to see results. The project manager knows that if he consistently delivers bad results, then he'll be shown the door. That's why most project managers are constantly afraid and anxious about their project, which increases their stress level.

- Methodology infatuation: Some project managers are "infatuated" with their project management methodology, the one that they used all the time and worked for them. And even though all researches and studies say that a certain project management methodology (loved by the project manager) does not work in a certain industry, the project manager insists on use this inadequate project management methodology, just out of love, while risking the project.

- No control over stakeholders: Project managers have no control whatsoever over stakeholders, whose often have agendas misaligned with the project itself, which can increase the risk of project failure. Project managers cannot do anything if they have bad stakeholders. Not only that, these stakeholders, to cover for the mess they've created with their agendas, think of the project manager as the... (read below)

- Perfect scapegoat: Project managers are the perfect scapegoat, in fact, I keep wondering whether or not this whole project management position is just a scam for suckers to make them pay for the mistakes of others (higher in the food chain).

Again, that was a good question!
answered 9 years ago by TheManager (6,220 points)

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