Originally published January 15, 2006 on my old project management blog, which I really ought to take down one of these days...:)
In addition to working as a project manager and teaching the subject at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I also work in IT as an enterprise and data architect. For the non-IT types reading this, enterprise architects deal with the specific relationships between business strategy and processes and how those are realized with information technologies.
I usually have no problems working in teams in a non-PM role as I love IT architecture as much as I do project management. Also, I never offer PMs managing the teams I'm on project management advice unless they ask me for it (they often do ask, but some don't). Finally, I don't overly critique PMs to the team or management unless: a) asked; or b) things are so bad that I have to rant and vent in the hope of getting to a positive outcome for the project and the project team.
OK, my motives might not be entirely altruistic. After all, I am running a business, and projects are revenue, and good, completed projects are good, long-term referals, so yes, I get something out of this too.
Anyway, I recently had the misfortune to run into a pretty poor project manager who has one key strength - excellent political skills. On the poor side, the guy can't do scheduling and come up with accurate milestone dates to save his butt. His method of scheduling primarily comes down to this: 1) Here's the totally aggressive and unrealistic date I promised the sponsor, but didn't let you in on until just now; and 2) match all of your work to this date, regardless of any other committments (business & personal) that you have.
Then, of course, as the dates get routinely blown by the project team, he distances himself more and more from the project until its clear that it has no project manager, or one steps up into the breech to either complete the work or shut the project down as gracefully as possible. We were in the middle of blowing some significant milestones on a project I was doing with him when he entered my office all bent out of shape and declared "WHAT shall WE DO about THESE DATES??"
After I motioned to him to take a seat - I leaned over, got about a foot from his face, and said very evenly but making no mistake about my intent: "You are the project manager, and its time that you started acting like one. You are the first one to take credit when things go well, and are nowhere to be found when they don't. This is YOUR PROJECT. If you want me to take over PM, then let's go see [the CIO] and make arrangements. I'll also make sure to inform him of WHY we're suggesting this change. If you think that you can lay all of the problems on this project with the project team, I strongly suggest that you think again because believe me, the outcome will not be in your favor."
He looked at me like I shot his dog. That's what narcissistic types do, I guess. It's all about him and things just can't survive without him. We'll see.
We ended up completing that project and delivering on its major milestone 6 months later than planned, and looking back, that 6 month slip was the realistic date. Narcissistic PM went on to head an even larger, more expensive project (in part due to his excellent political and BS skills) but his bad habits caught up with him. He was the cause for a huge revolt on his project team within 9 months, and severe slippage in cost and schedule on the project. He was summarily canned as PM and likewise from the company a few months later in a downsizing cutback.
Wonder if he learned anything from these experiences, or if it will always be our fault he didn't succeed.