I don't understand this trend for part-time managers. Is technology the reason behind it?
I lost a lot of friends in the application services provision tsunami that swept over the IT industry and left again just as quickly, leaving behind a terrible legacy of sunken businesses.
The great VoIP swell devastated hundreds of communications dealers.Many were not robust enough to remain afloat as they were buffeted on the waves of hysterical hearsay and mad marketing.
Now, I fear, there is another wave coming that could catch people unawares. It is not as bad as previous trend storms, but it could still do damage.
I refer, of course, to the rise of the part-time worker. Perhaps a third of project managers could be part-timers. And, if that were not depressing enough, these part-timers appear to be thriving. Between December 2011 and December 2012, their daily rates went up, which is a phenomenal result for anyone in today's economy.
I am truly shaken by this ill wind. But I am going to strap myself in and fight this storm.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against part-time workers. In many cases they are brilliant and effective, and they are generous enough to give you their best hours. If the part-timer is a morning person, at his or her best in the early hours, and you only employ them from 9am to 1pm, you are probably getting 75 per cent of the productivity you would get if they were paid full-time wages.
Many are brilliant in the morning and zombies after lunch. Extroverts tend to be the other way around.
But project management is not a job you can do part-time. I would argue that point all day, from first thing in the morning until the cleaners kicked me out at night, because it's very important. A good project manager leads the team. How can you get the best out of everyone if you're only available on Tuesday, Thursday and the first Friday of every month (bank holidays excluded)?
Project managers do more than get people firing on all cylinders. They are decision-making machines too. I thought the logic for improving modern business processes was based on getting rid of all the delays. But nobody prevaricates more skilfully than a part-timer.
I know people who have worked under a part-timer who despaired of the effect on the rhythms of work.
One part-time project manager, for example, was overseeing a channel study for a big telco that I won't name. But he was only available twice a week, which meant you either had to rush into work to catch him on the days he was in, or wait forever for him to come back to you.
Just to keep things interesting, he used to rotate the days when he came in. On the days he did turn up, of course, he always wanted instant answers. The cheek! You don't turn up for days, then when you do, you want instant gratification.
It's hard to keep the momentum going in a stop-start environment like that.
Uff Ali is an independent project management consultant
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