By Terry Bunio
I’ve written before in regards to how I dislike the term Project Manager. I feel the definition implies that the Project Manager is above the team and that the Project Manager controls or moves the resources on the project as he or she sees fit. It has the connotation of a command and control structure.
The Project Manager term does not convey that the Project Manager is there to serve the project and project team members. Rather, it is the team and team members that traditionally are viewed to serve the Project Manager.
For these reasons, I prefer the term Project Steward.
Here is the definition of Steward from Wikipedia:
“Stewardship is an ethic that embodies responsible planning and management of resources. The concept of stewardship has been applied in diverse realms, including with respect to environment, economics, health, property, information, and religion, and is linked to the concept of sustainability.”
History of the term
Historically, stewardship referred to the occupation of a steward. Initially, stewardship was the responsibility given to household servants to bring food and drinks to a castle dining hall. The term was then expanded to indicate a household employee’s responsibility for managing household or domestic affairs. Stewardship later became the responsibility for taking care of passengers’ domestic needs on a ship, train and airplane, or managing the service provided to diners in a restaurant. The term continues to be used in these specific ways, but it is also used in a more general way to refer to a responsibility to take care of something belonging to someone else.
Three Reasons why I prefer the Steward term
- It places the focus on the fact that the Steward serves and provides service to others. The Project Steward serves at the discretion of the team. In a traditional structure, that structure seems to be reversed.
Steward accurately reflects the fact that the Project Steward is taking care of the client’s project for them. It is clear that it is not my project, I am merely caring for it temporarily.
Food. Good Project Stewards understand the power random acts of food can have on team morale and productivity. It is no co-incidence that food is a focal point for stewards throughout history.
The definition mentioned that Stewardship is also linked tightly to the concept of sustainability. This has always been important for me as I work on projects. As a Project Steward I feel it is my responsibility to take care of the project that was entrusted to me and that I am obligated to return the project in the same or better shape than I received it. My duty is not just to complete the project or to meet the budget, but to deliver it back to the clients in better shape than I received it.
If I have done my job as a Project Steward, the clients have more value at the end then they had at the start.
Terry Bunio is currently a Principal Consultant at Protegra. He has managed multiple complex projects and provided Project Management, Architecture and Database leadership for companies such as Manitoba Public Insurance, LPL Financial, Assante Asset Management, Moventum, Government of Manitoba, Investors Group, and London Life. More recently Terry’s focus and passion has been on managing Lean projects and being part of Lean and Agile Project teams. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical book agile and the real world approaches.
Protegra helps organizations in the private and public sectors identify and solve tough business performance challenges. Protegra offers management consulting services focused on operational efficiencies. For organizations that use information technology as a competitive advantage, Protegra offers software services development and solutions.