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In Praise of PMs…

Ship in storm

Sometimes when I visualize things, I see caricatures. When I think of PMs, I see a person on a small boat, with one paddle, heading out into the open seas with storms on the horizon. Why do I have that feeling? Is it because industry picks the best and the brightest for PMs and then feels like they don’t need any further help? Or is it more of a love ’em and leave ’em deal?

Having done 360° Voice of the Customer assessments for over 8 years now, I regretfully admit that it may be more the latter. Industry PMs are the stronghold from the industry side in any government contract. Why then, are they left to their own devices once a contract is won?

Here’s the rub:

Government contracts that are let for 5 years or more are bound to have requirements that have changed. Even if industry has built in labor cost escalation, it probably is not enough to compensate for the scope creep that the PM is left to deal with.

PMs are usually assigned for the life of the contract. Government management, if military, may be on a 2-3 year rotation. ‘In with the new’ means new government management, new ideas and new expectations of what should be happening on the contract. It isn’t willful disregard for the written word, but a sincere, well intended military mentality of ‘Do the right thing, now’, regardless of what the contract says.

Executive management above the PM sees that incumbent work as already won work… which it is. Yet it doesn’t answer the “What have you done for me lately?” question. The PM is still pressured to bring in more work, and we know that rolls downhill. So now, in addition to meeting daily requirements and client expectations, the PM is left to also meet the growing expectations of internal management.

Upper management…In praise of the PM out there on the small boat, take a moment to live the famous modified adage;

Ask not what your PM can do for you, but what you can do for your PM.


Carla Villarreal is owner and founder of Transitions in Progress, LLC implementing the TIP Assessment® across Fortune 500 companies.