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Does the Project Manager that Starts the Project, Need to Finish the Project?
By James Clements

I’ll declare my hand straight up. As a Project Manager, I prefer the start up phases of a project over the finishing.

I love the idea of taking an idea, defining an objective, scope of work, selling that to customers and sponsors and then mobilizing the project, establishing and motivating the team.

But beyond that point my interest and motivation starts to wane, which is probably why I became a Bid Manager after years as a Project Manager.

I dislike everything involved with closing out a project, the endless punch lists, paperwork, finalizing accounts and disbanding the team, although I do like the handover parties and most of all the sense of pride in the final product!

These feelings have caused me to ponder time and time again whether the seemingly habitual motivation to have the same Project Manager throughout the full project management life cycle of a project is absolutely necessary and is it really the best approach?

Sure, there’s lots of advantages to having continuity in a Project Manager and his team and most clients swear black and blue that the same Project Manager must see out the project. But I think that because all human beings are inherently wired differently, serious consideration should be given to the strategic changeout of Project Managers at key points in projects to get the best possible outcomes.

Let’s look at he characteristics required of each project phase:

Start-Up Project Manager

The project manager needs vision, he needs to conceptualize the end game, he is an organizational entrepreneur almost, selling, wheeling, dealing and trading scope, resources and budget. His leadership skills are those of direction setter, motivator and decision making go getter.

Finalization Project Manager

The time for creativeness is over, we’re now focused on facts, we are the proverbial cat herder, we need to grab hold of all those loose ends, tie them together, document everything, satisfy all the test and acceptance requirements, placate the client, sponsors, team members as the long hard slog weighs on patience and tempers. This is where the left brain thinkers come into their own and shine amongst the chaos.

With this view of a project, I think we are talking about two very different people!

Two people with different skill sets, different personalities and different motivations.

I have seen the changing of project managers happen by default, a resignation, promotion even a Project Manager sacked because the project wasn’t meeting its objectives and you know what, generally the person that replaced the unfortunate soul that was failing, had a completely different approach to the project, I wonder whether those making the choice did this consciously or sub-consciously?

As I eluded to early, I prefer the front end of projects, I know for a fact closing out project’s is not my cup of tea, I’ve done it time and time again, but every time an opportunity arose to exit a project once it was established, I took it, no hesitation.

My Mother always reminds the assembled family at Christmas I couldn’t build Mecano sets, maybe that was fore warning.

With this in mind, I ask, do you think there is a place for strategically matching Project Manager’s to project phases and changing them to suit the phase?

James Clements, MBA, MPD has been managing, directing, winning projects and developing project management processes in diverse industries around the world for the past 20 years. You can contact James via his website here and you can read more from him on his blog.

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