No need for a PM for a team of one. Professionals manage their own time

What do you do when you’re asked to project manage a team of one? Personally I say “okay” then do nothing. I believe the smaller the team the lighter the process necessary to run the team. When project management merges into time management you don’t need the project manager any more. Professionals manage their own time. I manage teams.

Leave them alone

I have on occasion been instructed to project manage a team of one developer. However a good developer working by themselves doesn’t need my help. So I leave them alone to get on with the job. I believe there is little need for a project manager in this context.

Project Managing One Developer

Project Managing One Developer

Who has responsibility for delivery when you leave them alone?

If I’m leaving the developer to get on with it, why do I tell management “okay” when they ask me to manage the developer? Management are really asking me to take responsibility for delivery and I am always happy to be responsible for delivery. Being responsible for delivery means I get to choose how to execute the project. I will use the best approach for the time and money available. If my team is a sole developer then the best approach is for me to to get out of the way and leave the developer to do their work in peace.

But there is a key point here. I have accepted responsibility for delivery so if the developer doesn’t deliver for any reason then I carry the can. There is a lot of trust implicit in this and some risk.

When not to leave them alone

There are times when I hover around a more bit closely.

Even a good developer might appreciate help with stakeholder management, gathering requirements and/or testing, and I’ll happily pick up these responsibilities. In fact this is generally a good idea because of the account management responsibilities I often have. But any planning etc the developer can do themselves.

What if the developer needs a technical helping hand? Even a team of two developers doesn’t really need a project manager. I’ll just leave them to it. But if the initiative grows further, and needs more people, then I’ll pick up more responsibilities as well.

If the developer is not a “good developer” then they might need a little more help. From me or a senior technical type. But even this is not project management, more coaching, mentoring and perhaps performance management.

This post is part of my What do I do When … ? series. Please drop me a line or add a comment if you’ve got a question you’d like answered.