Do product people need project managers?

Jason Knight
4 min readMay 8, 2022

I ran an interesting poll on Twitter recently asking for product managers’ opinions of project managers, and whether they want to work with them. Project managers get a bit of a rough ride in product management circles and much of the classic literature, but what did people really think? I was pretty surprised.

What the..!?

I was surprised because nearly 60% of people seem to want to work with project management in their product development process. That’s not a slight on project managers from me… I have worked with some fantastic project managers in my time! However, it does run counter to the traditional product management narrative.

Some of the replies to the poll were interesting and made me think a little bit about the role of project management in product development, where project managers can deliver value, and the types of project managers that we might work with. I broke them down into four main groups (I’m sure there are more) in order of desirability:

The emergency Scrum masters

This is an interesting one that you might see in a company that is digitally transforming or moving from a professional service to a product mindset. That’s a good transformation to undergo, but we all know it’s not just a case of splitting your waterfalls into 2-week chunks and carrying on as usual. It takes substantial cultural change to do any of this stuff properly, and simply assuming that your project managers can take a 2-week course (if you even send them on a course at all) and become Scrum masters is not it at all.

That’s not to say that project managers (or anyone else for that matter) can’t train to be effective Scrum masters because I’m sure that many absolutely can. But if they’re just going to be treating each Sprint as a mini project and micromanaging the ceremonies, that’s not it. It really isn’t.

Red / Amber / Green Gantt jockeys

People in this group are mainly interested in creating beautifully crafted delivery plans and trying to introduce predictability to the product management process. They see the way to do this as asking people for constant updates so they can produce status reports for the leadership team showing whether things are on track.

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Jason Knight

🕵️‍♂️ Consultant 🏋️‍♀️ Coach 👂 Mentor 🫵 Advisor 💬 Speaker 🎙 Podcast host @ One Knight in Product 🔗 https://okip.link/jason