The Project Manager Bill of Rights

Following my last blog post on PM Retention, I worked with our team and set about about putting together a Project Manager Bill of Rights to live next to the existing Developer Bill of Rights. The outcome is a ten-item list that guides the organization with regards to the breadth of the PM role, and the rights and respect that our PMs deserve.

The bill of rights reads as follows (with notes added to explain each):

Project Manager Bill of Rights

Metal Toad Media project managers have the right to…

1) speak for your projects and have your decision-making authority respected

Project Managers at Metal Toad are the primary client contact on a project. They're involved in the day-to-day conversations, meetings, correspondence, and decisions. They know the ins and outs of the project and have a finger on the project's pulse every day. When problems arise, it's wise to trust their judgement on the best way to move forward and make sure that their voice is strongly heard in group decision-making processes.

2) be treated respectfully by peers, leadership, and clients

Yes, every project may have some tense moments where things aren't going perfectly. But that's when everyone comes together to find the best solution possible. Yelling at, talking down to, or otherwise treating the project manager in a disrespectful manner is not an acceptable response. This goes for the project's developers, company leadership, and clients. Regardless of the situation, any project manager worth their salt has the best interests of both the client and agency in mind, and will strive for the best possible solution for everyone.

3) be candid and forthcoming about mistakes and concerns without persecution

Project Managers are human and will make mistakes. So will other people on the project. Owning up to the mistakes early and often is the best way to ensure that a project's course can be righted before it's too late. An environment in which project managers feel enabled to voice concerns and problems is critical to project success.

4) advocate for a healthy balance between customer satisfaction and the PM iron triangle (budget, timeline, scope)

You should never give away the farm in an attempt to achieve client satisfaction. We've tried it; it doesn't work. If we don't stand up for the value of our time and resources, our clients don't properly respect our work or business reality. At the same time, ruling by the iron triangle alone takes the human element out of projects, which is critical to shipping something that achieves business goals. Decisions on what to ship, when to ship it, and how much it costs should always find middle ground, where the client's critical needs are addressed and the agency's profitability is maintained.

5) have the proper tools to get the job done

Metal Toad provides our entire team with late model Macbook Pros and large secondary displays. We give people options for their preferred input devices, and we make sure that role-critical software is purchased. We don't lock down machines, so employees are able to install extensions, browsers, widgets, and freeware as necessary. We also have some discretionary budget set aside for one-off software purchases that become necessary in the course of development projects. In general, the goal is to make sure that technology and tools are never a blocker on a project.

6) have the final say in resource scheduling and allocation

Everyone has a say in who is working on what at any given time, but when it comes down to it, as a collective whole the project management team has the clearest view of the overall amount of work to get done and when it needs to be completed. We work closely with developers and understand skill sets and areas of interest, and we always make an effort to line up people with projects that suit their skills and excite them. When things are tuned correctly, we run like a well-oiled machine. When resourcing decisions are made outside of the PM team, project and task collisions occur.

7) maintain open communication channels with your team and receive timely responses

At Metal Toad we place a high value on developer flow. But within the context of making sure developers maintain flow, we still need to communicate with them efficiently (and sometimes in a hurry). Our overall organization uses a set of tools (Yammer, Email, IM) and process (specific times to check in, communication methods to use, etc.) to address this, but sometimes an emergency comes up and an in-person interruption is called for. In those cases, putting out fires becomes more important than flow.

8) be included in all project communication you deem necessary to succeed

Training the project team (clients, developers, leadership, etc.) to treat the project manager as the primary point of contact is critical to making sure information is shared properly. We support direct developer-client interaction, but part of the project manager's role is as a knowledge repository of all project communication. That means they need to be included on any and all correspondence.

9) have company support for continued professional development and improving your public reputation as a project manager

Professional development is important to help project managers grow and improve at their jobs. The more projects a PM has managed, the more scenarios they've dealt with and the better their project toolset and decision tree will be. That said, professional development is a chance to step back and evaluate new methodologies and strategies for successfully managing projects. When it comes to public reputation, we want Metal Toad to be known for stellar project management. Part of that is visibility into our team's process and skills (via channels like this blog).

10) be provided with regular candid feedback on performance for both achievements and areas to improve

This one should apply to any position, but continual improvement of our project management team will lead to happier clients, more successful projects, and better financial return for Metal Toad. We run our organization on honesty, and we strive to celebrate wins and coach on losses whenever possible.

Your Turn

Obviously our list has some items that relate more to our organization than others, but overall this bill of rights can serve as a universal blueprint for a PM Bill of Rights. Do you think we missed anything? Are there any you'd add or modify for your organization? Let us know!

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