Can a Project Manager who is not Specialized in the Area of the Project be Successful?

Have you asked yourself this questions before? Have you been in a room where this question has been asked before? What were the results? Were all parties on the same page?

This question is usually a black and white kind of question for most. Either one agrees or does not agree. There is rarely a middle ground. It is based on experience and biased knowledge of what is possible. The story goes, if it’s a technical project I need an engineer. This engineer needs to be a project manager.

But why?

If a project manager is the smartest guy in the room then will we need to hire more engineers to do the work? We probably will have to hire someone new, as the engineer turned PM has the PM work to do. So how can they have enough time to complete the engineering work?

If this is the case then, do you pay the PM more or less money? Do you have the engineer make decisions or do the engineers make the decisions? What happens if some engineer work needs to be done and so to save time and money on the budget the PM starts doing some of the engineering work?

Fact is that although it’s a great idea, one has to look at the big picture. A PM has the knowledge of managing projects. No two projects are alike but basic principles are used. A strong PM is able to apply these to any project and be successful. The level of success is based on how well the resources are utilized. For instance, if the PM is not an engineer, they will leverage the engineer’s knowledge on the project in order to fully complete the PM tasks. One cannot exist without another.

Being inclined to hire based on reputation is a good thing, however, being inclined to hire based on PM characteristics strengthens the choice. If a PM has a personality that can deal with the engineers and talk their language in the meeting room, then that candidate can be successful.

If the harnessing of resources is done properly by the PM and is supported by the stakeholder and owners of the project then success is easily achieved.

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