Are you an IT Adviser PM or an IT Push-Backer PM

Today I’m inspired by Andrea Brockmeier and Elizabeth’s Larson’s article in Project Times concerning 2013 Trends in Project Management. 

Number one on their list is that project professionals need to provide advice, not push back.ProjTimes

“Project professionals need to provide advice, not pushback. Several years ago organizations told us that they wanted PMs and BAs to be able to push back when their stakeholders asked for new requirements. Some of these organizations are now seeing that pushing back is one way to avoid being an order-taker, but it is less effective than providing well-analyzed advice. Our prediction is that more organizations will want PMs and BAs to be trusted advisers (sometimes called trusted partners).” from

I would just like to add on to this idea.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve run into Project Managers who are expert Push-Backers.  I think a lot of them don’t really know what advice giving really looks and feels like.  I think that they are so used to being ‘IT’ that they adopt push back as part of the culture.  I have at times been a push-backer but fortunately I’ve had really painful experiences that have forced me to be more of an adviser.  So having sat on both sides of the fence I decided to write up a few things that indicate to me what an adviser looks/sounds like vis what a push-backer looks/sounds like.

Here we go:

Investment in the Solution

The IT Adviser PM:

You’re not really that invested in the solutions proposed.   You care, because you want the best thing for the project, but if the wrong decision is made, you feel that you’ve given it your best shot and that’s it.  You recognize that giving all the info was your role, the decision was not your role.

The IT Push Backer PM:

You are absolutely invested in the solution you’ve presented.  You feel emotionally distraught if things don’t go the way think they should.   You think any decision that is different from the one you’ve already made in your head is wrong.

Collaboration on SolutionsPushback

The IT Adviser PM:

When you  listen to solutions or directions other than your own, you really listen. You’re open, you consider, and you build on what you’ve heard.

The IT Push Backer PM:

When other people give their ideas, you look for ways that those solutions won’t work.  You are vocal about how those solutions won’t work.

Respecting Others Knowledge

The IT Adviser PM:

You think that business people, even though they aren’t as knowledgeable about systems as you, should be given respect for what they know about their business domain.  There are things you recognize you don’t know, and you are open to learning.

The IT Push Backer PM:

You think that business users should pretty much stay out of systems.  You know the system, you know how it works, and they don’t need to know too much about how things work.  Business knowledge is important, but only to the extent that it results in good requirements/user stories.

Advisers listen and assist

Advisers listen and assist

Risk Mitigation:

The IT Adviser PM:

You think about what could go wrong because you want to make sure that the solution succeeds.  You bring it up and talk proactively about risks, and  you give business users a way to discuss risk without it being personal.

The IT Push Backer PM:

You think about the solution as an IT solution.  Anything that happens outside of IT must be resolved by business users.   One major risk that you see is the business not having their act together and wasting your people’s time.   You actively guard against this risk.


So which one are you?  Chances are you’re a little bit of both. Chances are you have to shift between a continuum that has adviser on one side and push backer on the other depending on who you’re dealing with.   But if we are to look at the trends, as suggested by Brockmeier and Larson,  it can’t hurt to take a personal time out and think about how you can develop some refined adviser chops for the future.


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