Don’t “Drill Down” Into Technical Issues

I am going to create new series in my blog called Advices to the novice project managers and I think it would be very helpful especially for software developers stepping into the project management field.

There are many occasions when a project manager is tempted to take on some development tasks especially if she is an experienced developer or when the project management activities don’t require full-time commitment. Things go worse when a technical issue arises and apparently there is no team member who can solve it. The project manager’s heart cannot restrain from plunging straight into the problem; she buries herself into that technical challenge and after that nothing can draw her attention back until a solution has been found.

This a very dangerous temptation and many former developers give in to it. The problem is that while you think about that specific technical problem you forget about all the other obligations you have as a project manager. As the old proverb says, you cannot see the forest from the trees. But your new position requires that you never lose sight of the forest.

If you cannot fill up your time with PM activities it is better that you manage several small projects than to work as a developer and a project manager at the same time. If it is really necessary to do development tasks, choose something more trivial and less important and delegate the more critical tasks to people who can devote their full time to them.

And in the end if the team collides with some technical issue that requires more time and research assign that task to a team member who can devote all her time to that issue and ask her to keep you informed every day about the progress. Sometimes it may require hiring an expert or communicating with the support center of the system software vendor – these activities require too much effort and focus that you shouldn’t assign them to yourself. If you want to develop as a project manager you shouldn’t lose the sight of “the big picture”.

This post is also available in Bulgarian language

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  • Craig Brown says:

    Sage advice.
    THe same should be said of business analysis/ Unless the project is small and simple, don’t try to do oth roles. It’s just too hard.

  • John Reiling says:

    Hey, nice blog, and nice thoughts and writing.

    Yes, the temptation can be great to plunge intot he technical issues, and I think you are right when you talk about the dangers, and the way you describe that they plunge almost blindly, nver to return to the surface. Very descriptive, and relaistic, I believe.

    One of the problems is that, if you look at recruitment job requirements for certain positions, it states that a Project Manager is required with extenisve .NET and Java programming experience, UML, object oriented programming, etc. Part of the probelm you describe comes before there is even a project manager on the project! Education is required OUTSIDE the profession as well as within.

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