The seven types of project manager

Variance
Threshold

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by Michael Hatfield, PMP, Contributing Editor

DIVIDING PEOPLE INTO behavioral groups on a more sophisticated basis than the typical Valley Girl (gross, totally gross, and eeuuwwwww) can give insight into their probable future behavior. Besides, no author who writes about project managers can do so for long before being forced to pigeonhole these guys. And, if PM Network editors have placed one of those “we do not necessarily agree with the blah blah position of Mr. Hatfield blah blah…” disclaimers on this feature, don't believe it for a second. They think this stuff is funnier than you do. So, here goes:

The Huckster

Nicknames: Slick; Snake Oil Salesman.

Prominent Tactic: Fooling the customer into believing that project ends are being met.

Quote From: “You don't really want to go to the trouble of a full-up project control system. We can manage without it. Trust me.”

Quote About: “I don't trust that guy.”

Advantages: If the customer can be buffaloed out of his money, this PM will make a mint.

Disadvantages: If the customer cannot be buffaloed out of his money, this PM will really make him mad.

The Zombie

Nicknames: Clueless; Motor's Running But No One's Behind the Wheel.

Prominent Tactic: Waiting problems out.

Quote From: “We don't want to take too drastic an action here. The wrong move will ruin the entire project.”

Quote About: “He'd better get off the dime and do something about this.”

Advantages: Never takes an inappropriate action.

Disadvantages: Never takes an appropriate action in time.

The Former Military Officer

Nicknames: Herr Commandant; The Little General.

Prominent Tactic: Issuing contradictory or incomprehensible orders and expecting them to be carried out immediately; intimidating the staff.

Quote From: “DON'T YOU EYEBALL ME, BOY! You see the notches on this riding crop? Each one is an engineer who failed to meet a project deadline!”

Quote About: “When is he going to realize that he's not in the military anymore?”

Advantages: The staff will be on time for all meetings.

Disadvantages: The project will be completed without a single member of the original staff.

The Team Manager

Nicknames: Trend Slave; Ah, C'mon Team.

Prominent Tactic: Trying to implement every screwy management team-building or communication-enhancement idea he reads about in the Harvard Business Review.

Quote From: “We need to improve our cross-cutting management paradigm to enhance customer quality focus.”

Quote About: “Did you understand what he just said?”

Advantages: Provides a great deal of comic relief when startled by vice presidents.

Disadvantages: Confuses the staff (and himself) on a regular basis.

The Scientist

Nicknames: Ozone; Cosmo.

Prominent Tactic: Analyzing any and all problems with such mind-crushingly complex data and procedures that no one ever argues with him.

Quote From: “If this 10-year budget spreadsheet does not match the schedule resources table to the dime, the entire system is worthless.”

Quote About: “That presentation brought new meaning to the word ‘boring.’”

Advantages: Has backup data, in excruciating detail, for every decision he has ever made, and can prove every choice was the logical one.

Disadvantages: Is only vaguely aware that his staff is working the same project.

The Slave Driver

Nicknames: Simon Legree; The Overseer.

Prominent Tactic: Committing staff to outrageous, virtually unattainable deadlines and goals, and then manipulating the customer, staff, and circumstances to attain them.

Quote From: “I have never had a negative schedule variance in my life.”

Quote About: “The voices in my head told me to buy this handgun, take it to work, show it to my project manager, and see what happens.”

Advantages: Over the short term, will get more out of the staff than anyone thought possible.

Disadvantages: By the end of the project, any job your competitors offer your staff will be extremely appealing to them.

The Sleaze

Nicknames: J.R. Ewing; Shark; SEC Bait.

Prominent Tactic: Ruthlessly crushing opponents within the organization via ownership of sensitive, private information.

Quote From: “It would be a pity if the company's security chief were to be sent these pictures of where and with whom you have been spending your lunch hours.”

Quote About: “It's amazing how he always seems to get the cooperation of associates and superiors.”

Advantages: His negative cost variances seem to go away like magic.

Disadvantages: Sooner or later, everyone in the organization will be seen as a threat, meaning that he will have more control of the staff than the organization's owners.

WHERE IS THE honest, respectable project manager? There isn't one. That type only exists in academia and on PMI's editorial board. ■

Michael Hatfield, PMP, is a senior project controls engineer for Los Alamos Technical Associates. He welcomes all project horror stories for this feature. Please e-mail yours to [email protected] for possible inclusion in future editions.

PM Network • October 1997

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