"Aneesh, what does a Project Manager do?" asked my friend who was contemplating a career in elearning. Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied – "They are ruthless slave drivers, that’s what they are." To which my friend replied – "Well, now that you've told me what you think of Project Managers, why don’t you tell me what they do?
I then gave my friend an overview of the project lifecycle and the Project Manager's role at each stage. While I was explaining this to an "outsider", I realized certain undeniable truths. As Learning Designers, we often feel that we have the toughest job of conceptualizing and coming up with ideas. We also believe that we can take up all the time that we want to come up with ideas. After all, creativity doesn’t start flowing at the touch of a button. I certainly would love for time to stand still, while I come up with superb ideas that could transform a dull 365 page PDF document into an immersive learning experience. However, the truth is, that time and the clients are not going to stand still. We need to understand the true meaning of the word ‘deadline’. Us creative folks hate working under a deadline and feel that deadlines hamper our creativity. We hate being bound by time allocation, and quite honestly, sometimes fail to manage it. It is a fallacy to think that a creative person doesn’t need to be professional, and that we can come up with ideas only when we have enough time to gaze into empty space. That simply isn't true.
Why Project Managers Are Needed
A Project Manager’s role is similar to that of a Conductor in an orchestra. They need to co-ordinate between multi-disciplinary teams, not to mention external stakeholders. Each ‘creative’ team member believes that he/she has the toughest job of coming up with ideas, and feels that he/she needs more time to do a good job. The problem is that the team will never be able to meet deadlines, unless you have that one individual (Project Manager) who will continually nudge each team member and remind them that the Earth is not going to stop spinning just because they need more time to come up with that ‘special idea’. Though it shouldn't be the case, Project Managers have become the necessary evil. It is a tough job, and a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. And remember this – when things start getting tough, it's always the Project Manager who has to bear the brunt of the Client's ire. In conclusion, I still mutter under my breath when my Project Manager gives me uncomfortable deadlines; but I now see them in a whole new light. I would love to know what you think of the role of a Project Manager. Feel free to comment.