Negative habits in selecting Project Manager

It is too common to see in our company that a project manager is selected based on several criteria set by our management. The criteria might be derived from personal preference, availability of the project manager, good technical background, seniority in the company and so on and so forth. The new project might be urgent and your boss might not have much time to go through all of the criteria or even he does not have a list of criteria. Therefore, he just checks the available staff under him and call him into his office.

I just got mandated to run this project under my program. Since you are the PMP project manager and your schedule is not so tight, I am proposing your name as the Project Manager”. As a subordinate, the only option he has to say is ‘yes’ and he is ready for the new challenge, although he has no experience in managing that kind of a project.

This is usual in our daily work, since the boss does have many options left and all of his staffs are fully occupied with other projects with some have two or three projects in hands. Franky speaking, I will do the same thing. Before I move further, I just want to emphasize that this article is not meant to be the guidelines nor rules that must be followed in order to pick the project manager correctly. Rather it is just a list of common mistakes that management made based on the wrong criteria. In other words, assuming that there are not many constraints in man power and expert’s availability, these wrong criteria ought to be avoided.

  • Seniority
    Some of the bosses give a project to a staff based on the number of years he has been working as a project manager. This might be the right way. But be careful, some project managers have been managing projects for 10 years in a specific field only. For example, in Telecommunication industry, specifically on the Radio Access Network (RAN). By appointing him as a Billing System Project Manager, he might be using the same policies and procedures and one way of managing project that do not suit with the IT project environment. Billing system projects are known to be more dynamic and relentlessly user driven.

  • Hard-Nosed tactics
    As the hard-nose character is one of the good attribute in Project Management, but it cannot be used in all situations. Too micromanaging and too harsh tactics can demoralize the project team members especially when he gets the team members from their functional managers. In their functional line, the team members are used to a macro managed leadership style since their performance are being monitored and controlled by their Managers in year-end appraisal. Their daily jobs are therefore not closely monitored. Thus as a Project Manager, he must be able to adapt leadership style to the project team so that they are comfortable working with him.

  • Technical Expertise
    Promoting a technical specialist to project management because of his technical expertise may be accepted if, and only if, the project requires this expertise and technical direction, as in R&D effort. If the project requires a “generalist” to be a project manager, assigning highly technical personnel to this assignment may result in several drawbacks (unless the technical personnel has been trained to adopt the business mind-set, as what MBA degree objective is all about).
    1. The greater the project manager’s technical expertise, the higher the tendency that we will overly involve himself in the technical details of the project.
    2. The greater the project manager’s difficulty in delegating technical task responsibilities, the more likely it is that he will over involve himself in the technical details of the project (depending upon his expertise to do so).
    3. The greater the project manager’s interest in the technical details of the project, the more likely it is that he will defend the project manager’s role as one of the technical specialist.
    4. The lower the project manager’s technical expertise, the more likely it is that he will overstress the nontechnical project functions (administrative functions).


  • Customer Orientation
    Executives quite often selecting the project manager due to the skill of that person in communicating well with customers. Well while most of this fact is true, the executives must also understand that without the proper support to the project manager, the project will be subject to failure. Therefore, the executives must provide him with the strong supporting team to the selected project manager for effective and efficient project management.

  • New Exposure
    In some occasions, the project manager is selected from the functional team where the person usually does the operational works for years. The executives might have their own objective, to make him or her well rounded individual and better understand the working relationship between project management and line management. However, after spending about twelve to sixteen months in the project management, his or her skills on operational tasks might be obsolete. Furthermore, there is higher chance that the person will not want to come back to the functional line as he or she has got the taste of doing project management.

  • Company Exposure
    If the executives plan to appoint a project manager from a person who has worked in they variety of divisions in the company, then think again. The executives need to double check his background and his work performance in every division he has been. If he performed averagely good, then he is up for the new challenge. However, if he was jumping from one division to another due to his incompetency, then putting him into a project management will maximize the damage he can do to the company.

Major citation:

Kerzner, H. (2013). Project Management, A System Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. 

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