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On PMs often doing more harm than good.

Andy Rutledge, principal and chief design strategist for Unit Interactive, claims project managers often do more harm than good and looks at what they actually do and what they should be doing in order for a project to succeed:


My response to his article is the 3rd comment below it. Enjoy.



Your article covers the account/project manager hybrid specifically and I wish you could have spoken to the account/project manager/producer hybrid as well because there are tremendous differences in all of these roles — they are all based on the person’s experience (mentorship and feedback from past coworkers/project leads/partners) and their educational background (creative, non-creative, tech, business).

I hate to say it but as much as you wished to make this article sound balanced (if that was even your intention) it definitely leans more on the negative side on the role of a project manager. Thanks, really appreciate it.

I’m sad to see that you consider a PM more a of middle man of a project rather than the buddy of the project lead (in most cases, the lead creative on a project), which leads me to believe that you haven’t had the luxury of working with a stellar PM. Sure, there’s bad and good PMs out there and some are more passionate about tweaking their style and role to match the company’s process and tone — and others simply consider it a just a jobby job. The later are those who haven’t come from a creative or digital background of some sort (speaking to the assumption that you are part of a creative agency). That’s a huge problem. A project manager that works at a bank and is PMP certified won’t fit the bill in a creative space *unless* the company is willing to teach him the ways. So hire wisely.

Which leads me to my next point. An efficiently run company with open communications, knows that every single team member can freely speak their mind and define what works and what doesn’t work for them. In return the PM and creative lead should be aware of what works best for the team, the project and the company’s methodologies overall — and then apply those styles and sustain them.

Your mandate was clear: hire professionals and then let them do their jobs. I couldn’t agree more! A company of a certain size needs support in those 3 areas (account, project and production support). Craft an ad for a rockstar producer. Train them as you would train your designers. Why not? Let me remind you that PMs don’t go to PM school. PMs learn on the job. Job after job they start to craft what the ‘standard’ is. Work with them to create the process that works best for you and your company.

ex. If you think a PM shouldn’t run a kickoff meeting, then don’t let them do that at your company.

I’m simply surprised you carry this tone when your mantra is ‘professionalism’. As *you* would train your designers to work as professionals and set high expectations for their results, you should be doing the same for a project manager. And if the PM is already a professional they will naturally help you train the rest of the team to be professionals to have more a voice as they should.

A PM doesn’t create a void, their job is to resolve it with the proper means necessary.
A PM is a professional — a master psychologist who deals with everyone’s egos, styles and methods of work and communication. The PM tweaks their style to cater to everyone’s needs and expectations. This goes for the internal teams as well as the client(s). And on top of that, they have to manage all the inbetween, the actual production of work and finances.

A PM doesn’t harm the team nor the company nor the business. They actually run the business for you.

Crystal Ginn

1 Comment so far

  1. Michelle

    Love your response — thank you! As an editorial team member who works with designers in an environment that lacks project managers, I see colossal issues with Rutledge’s position. For instance, while I’m sure some designers out there are great at communicating with clients, understanding the full scope of projects, etc., many are terrible at these things. That’s where a project manager’s strengths come in. There is also a large gap in this article in terms of how designers relate to other members of the creative team — writers, for example. When designers take the lead, the focus seems to fall heavily on design rather than the underlying purpose/goal of the communication. There are so many other issues too… but I don’t want to rant! Thanks again for responding to the article.

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