Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

5 different types of Project Managers

I am preparing to deliver part of a day long project management workshop at a conference. As I was thinking through the content I wanted to cover and reading some references, the BBC was covering the US Presidential election and relative chances of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Inevitably, the religious angle came up. Funnily enough, I was thinking about how dogmatic some of us in the project management field are about the way we work. Religion and project management has some ironic parallel. I can categorize project managers and religious followers in the same 5 high level baskets. A bit of creative generalization on my part, but hold this thought.


The Ideologue

The fervent believer. In religious context, holding extreme view … my way or the high way. Everyone else is wrong and the wrath shall fall upon them. In project management sense, these are the Project Managers that catch a specific methodology and way of working and stick to it come hell or high water. They are not one to be shy on telling everyone whey they are correct in their ways and everyone else is wrong. They are not particularly interested in hearing any conflicting ideas and have no appetite for discussions. They already know it, no-one else gets it. Just like fundamentalists, there is not much you can influence with this type of project manager. You can only pray that you get a team that fits to their style.

The Zealot

A slightly considerate version of the ideologue. A firm believer nonetheless, who is willing to acknowledge contrary views exist, but considers his views the most appropriate and sniggers at all others. In a religious context, I relate this group to the clergy. In a project management sense, these are the ones that adopt a particular methodology really strongly. While accepting other schools of thought exist, they give little credence to the usefulness of those and look down upon others that do not hold similar views. This is probably a redeemable quality. You may one day be able to get them to accept an alternate point of view. In my experience most project managers fall in this category.

The Practitioner

This is a group that is more concerned about the practicalities, rather than a particular belief. From a religious context, I equate this group to the general followers of a religion. They are not concerned about all methodologies going around. While they may specialize in a particular methodology, they are not shy in adjusting it to the situation and if necessary borrowing from other methodologies to make it work. This would be the ideal project manager in my view. However, project managers being of strong wills and of a mind to control most things, it is hard to get to this space.

The Secular

This is a group that is not particularly concerned about methodologies. They are happy to go along with any methodology and let others get on with whatever they choose. From a religious context, I equate this group to the believers of sort that kind of understand the basics, but is not particularly worried about the customs of the religion. They may go to the church or the mosque every so often, but not feel guilty if they have not. From a project management sense, these are people that are yet to develop an attachment to a particular methodology. Usually these people are new to the field and looking for the correct guidance. They are the group that can be converted to the practitioners easily.

The Non-believer

This is the group that feels little or no need for methodologies. From a religious context you can equate this group as atheists. From a project management perspective this is highly dangerous, and possibly do not see the value in investing in this discipline. The only thing you can guarantee with this approach is inconsistency. Making it up from the seat of your pants is not as exciting from a strategic view as it is sometimes from a technical view. Unfortunately, I have seen a few too many IT projects that fall into this category.

This was my attempt to parallel religion and project management. Have I been too generous or critical of any particular group here?

No offense to any religion is intended.

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8 responses to “5 different types of Project Managers

  1. Nathan Heazlewood October 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Well put Shoaib- would be interesting as a poll to see what category PMs would put themselves into- and then to compare to what their associates think of the category they should be in.

    • Shoaib Ahmed October 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      That is the test :o) What others think of you.

      • Nadine October 18, 2012 at 3:34 am

        I kind of miss ‘the PM’s that do whatever their employers (the one who pays their salary, for example the IT manager) wants and completely ignores the actual customer that should benefit from the project (business)’… In which category would you place them? Maybe the ‘idoliser’ or something?

      • Shoaib Ahmed October 18, 2012 at 7:09 am

        Good question. I’d probably say they are Secular or non believer depending on the circumstance.

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  3. Jane Hammond August 9, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Love how atheists are immediately panned rather than being viewed as logical, empirical and rational in their methodologies, based on what actually is proven to work and exist. Nice smear there in what was otherwise an interesting article.

  4. Shoaib Ahmed August 9, 2013 at 7:15 am

    The intent wasn’t to smear anyone, just to compare the stereotypes. Apologies for any offence caused.

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