Goldfish

Everyone talks about what makes a great manager. Inspirational, motivational, aspirational. But a great project manager is a different kettle of fish. Or a kettle of different fish. Maybe goldfish.

Whatever. Different.

Let me tell you a story of many years past. I was working closely with my PM on a significant project for a major car company (I’ve actually worked for most of them).

My PM’s job was to protect me from all the political, contractual rubbish that comes with any large project, to allow me to focus.

When we went to meet our partner company for this contract, we divided up. Techies in one room, project managers in another. Hey, we only had an afternoon. It meant we could focus.

The trouble was that without project managers, we had no idea who was supposed to do what. We divided up the work as we saw it, not the way the contract, budget, or the project plan that had been drawn up in the other room, had expected.

As the project progressed, the levels of insulation increased. I was excluded from status meetings, client meetings. I was still working to my own plans.

Months of hard work later, we were significantly out of step. Expectations didn’t meet product.

Deadlines passed. Clients fumed. Rivers of blood. Earthquakes rent the land. Trees fell. Floods. Weekend work. Fire. Brimstone. The works.

At Twitter we have a core value, to “communicate fearlessly to build trust”. It’s my favourite value. It doesn’t say communicate *needlessly*, so I don’t need to know what you have for breakfast, or how much the CEO earns.

But it speaks to transparency and openness, and I’ve learned that this is what makes a great Project Manager.

Instead of standing between the engineers and the rest of the company, they serve as a connector, bringing you news, making introductions, setting up meetings. Not telling me what I need to know, but telling me everything I might want to know.

A connector, not a shield. That’s a great PM.