Project Manager or Forward Manager?

Project Manager or Forward Manager

Project Manager or Forward Manager

How should I start a series of articles dedicated to project management? Probably it is best to start from the beginning, so let me introduce myself.

My name is Anna Surdyk, and I am the Project Manager. Most of you probably have heard about this role or even had a chance to work with PM, although you still have no idea what is this role about. Occasionally, I see sarcastic comments like,,next manager to manage…but what and whom?”, “I know my job and don’t need another middleman”. Nothing provokes me more than calling me a Forward Manager, grrr. I will try to tackle the myth of forwarding Managers circulating on the Internet and corporate corridors.  I'm not sure, I would be able to convince you that a Project Manager is not a Forward Manager, which is not really my goal. Furthermore, I hope this article would allow you to look at PM’s role from a different perspective. Here we go…

Who is a Forward Manager?

Well, that’s an unfair term some use when talking about Project Manager. In my opinion, the reason is a lack of understanding of the role itself rather than a kind of malice. Believe me or not, but even I am struggling to explain to my mum and friends from outside the industry what is my role about. They keep asking me the same question - ,,What are you doing EXACTLY”?

Coming back to forwarding Manager. Forward means to communicate or redirect so following this path Forward Manager is a person who simply sends out/forwards emails asking for intervention, some information and is kind of a middleman. A person who streamlines the communication, not really adding any value (I don’t agree with that!). So, where is the truth? I agree that PM streamlines the communication and acts as a splitter, but there is a purpose and that is indeed part of my job. I admit I forward some emails and here are the two reasons why am I doing so.

  1. INFORMATION – I want to share a piece of important information with my team that may impact their activities or tasks. It might be a piece of additional information helping them to perform better, information that may change the way they are doing things, or strategic information at the project level which I want them to be aware of. In such cases, I use the acronym FYI (for your information). One of the most important PM’s tasks is to make sure there is full transparency in the project and knowledge sharing among project team members. That is one of the key success factors, I believe. One should stick to this rule no matter what. Lack of proper communication is of the reasons the project are delayed. Have you ever had a feeling of not having enough information to perform your daily activities?
  2. ACTION – as a contact person for an external or internal client, I do receive many questions I am unable to answer immediately without having a chat with an expert. In this case, I forward the original email with my comment. It is needed to explain your request (sharing document, provide the latest status, or need of confirmation). Let’s do not assume people read in our minds. 

Long story short. Yes, I am a Forward Manager, but only in the cases described above. Is it the only thing am I doing? Of course not, but it is the most visible part of my job my colleagues can see.

Who is a Project Manager? Explain it to me in simple words.

It is a person responsible for project execution within the agreed scope, time, and budget. On a daily basis manages people assigned to a particular project, coordinates their work, report regularly the status of the project to senior managers/clients, and informs them about any risks and issues that arise in the project. The last case identifies people who can actually resolve the issue or minimize the risk and provides solutions. Believe me, it is not as easy as it looks. In most cases, risk/issue owners are not happy at all and keep trying to convince me that someone else should be the owner or there is a dispersal of responsibility. This is how it looks like from my perspective.

The role of the coordinator is essential, but very often not noticeable. The project manager performs many tasks which are not visible to others. In many cases, negotiates in backrooms and participates in small office wars. Yes, that is my world  I would like you to remember that there are many groups in the project having contradictory goals and objectives, and I am not talking about the main goal which is successful project delivery. A good Project Manager understands those and manages expectations appropriately.

Are you being chased by PM and keep getting reminders every day? You are not the only one. He/she probably does the same with your colleagues, external partners, and even bosses! There is no special treatment. Our bosses have their owns deadlines, tasks, and responsibilities.

Ok, so what is the purpose of the above? Imagine you have 15 people in the project and all of them provide an element or perform a task that constitutes the final product/service. No one is planning, setting deadlines, having an understanding of mutual dependencies, there is no communication as well as each person acts on his own, you don’t meet/communicate, no one knows who should decide but you need to execute a project. Would you be able to work effectively and deliver product/service as per the agreed scope, time and budget? Needless to say, these are set by the management board. In my opinion, that would be a huge challenge and this is where you need a Project Manager who plays the role of the maestro of an orchestra. He has excellent individual virtuosos, but the beauty of music can be only heard under the baton of the maestro.

This is how I see the Project Manager’s role. He plans and coordinates project teamwork, bonds the project, and knows what is the current status of the project.

I hope I have managed to convince you that PM’s role is something more than sending out emails. Please have more understanding for your PM next time you open your mailbox and see a reminder of the upcoming deadline for your task. ;)

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