Project Management vs Technical Management

This is a question that had troubled me endlessly as I grew up from role of a developer to team lead to a project manager, Do I as a project manager need to be hands-on technically? Having worked in organizations where the responsibility of project managers is quite technical to organizations where project managers don’t take technical decisions at all, this clear delineation of the role of a Project Manager in “Radical Project Management” by Rob Thomsett comes as a welcome relief. He distinguishes between “Context” and “Content” management.

He writes:

“Whereas the traditional project manager could personally review the detailed project technical deliverables, this was often achieved by ignoring the business aspects of the project. Further as the rate of technological changes increases and the various system development techniques becomes increasingly complex, it has become difficult, if not impossible, for a project manager to have all the requisite skills to enable him or her to undertake such technical reviews. As a result, the role of a project manager has gradually shifted to ensuring that processes are in place to assure the technical quality of the project’ deliverables, rather than personally reviewing the quality. This reflects the distinction between technical management and project management that emerged in other professions such as civil engineering.

The effective management of a project requires a balance between and integration of the content (technical deliverables, tasks, internal dynamic) and the context (managerial, political, social environment) of the project.

The project manager’s focus should be the context, not content.”

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