Einstein or Picasso: Who Was a Better Project Manager?

by The Persimmon Group | August 02, 2016

In some business circles, debates continue on whether a successful Project Manager should be more skilled in the art or the science of the craft. Gravitating toward either being a scientist or an artist sometimes falls into different categories of reasoning, such as: leadership expectations, personality, and past experience. So who makes a better Project Manager, an “Einstein” or a “Picasso”?

Let’s look at some of the common characteristics that might come to mind for both Project Manager types.

art-science of pm

While each type of Project Manager finds success by utilizing their strengths, if they only practice one or the other they will eventually hit a wall in their project.  Let’s explore some of these challenges and what a Project Manager can do to combat them.

Challenges for the Scientist

  1. Lack of buy-in from the Project Team
    While the scientist has the technical skills needed to create a good foundation for the project, if they can’t get buy-in from the Project Sponsor and the rest of the project team then the project may not even get started.  By understanding the motivators of each individual, and improving their own emotional intelligence skills they can increase the buy-in and engagement of the stakeholders.
  1. Communication
    Frequently, the scientist has issues communicating and relating to the project team because they shy away from the unnecessary conversations.  By taking time to focus on the “human” factor, they will learn more about their team members.  Often times, there is important information included in those unnecessary conversations that will increase the success of the project.
  1. Conflict Resolution
    Every project team experiences conflict, whether positive or negative conflict.  There are five different types of conflict styles: forcing, accommodating, compromising, avoiding, and collaborating. Each of these conflict styles has different consequences, so it is critical to understand how to manage the different types of conflict.  In order to improve conflict resolution skills, the Project Manager can find a mentor or do research on the different ways to manage conflict.

Challenges for the Artist

  1. No project foundation
    Without being skilled on the technical side of project management, such as scheduling and estimating, there is not a good understanding of where the project is at or where it is going.  If a Project Manager lacks these skills, they should find someone that has these skills and learn from them during the project.
  1. Lack of Credibility
    If the PM is unable to give the Project Sponsor an update on where the project is, trust and credibility will begin to be lost.   To solve this issue, the Project Manager needs to take the time to provide regular status reports and keep supporting documents up to date (e.g. project schedules).
  1. No knowledge of industry best practices
    Project Management continues to evolve every day.  In order to keep up with the changes, a Project Manager should stay up to date on best practices and new project management techniques.  If the artist doesn’t know which information sources are the most reliable, they should reach out to the scientist or someone else who researches industry best practices frequently.

There is art to how a PM creates a schedule or a risk management plan,  while artists use a method or a “science” to how they work with team members. At Persimmon, we believe that the science and art of project management is needed in order to be successful. Additionally, we argue that every Project Manager, whether an artist or a scientist, has components of both.


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