Bottleneck or Project Manager?

One of the things with being a project manager is that some people try to use you as a buffer. They never seem to want to communicate directly with each other. Carol needs a report from Fred, so she asks you to ask Fred to give you the report. Fred knows that it’s Carol that needs the report yet he sends it to you for you to give it to Carol. That wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t a bunch of other people trying to do that and it would be even less bad if you weren’t away on vacation!
Not only does that behaviour make you a bottleneck, you are also taken away from the project management work you should be doing.
When this happens to me, I politely say that information flows faster round me rather than through me. I just need to know that the action happened – I have no intention of reading Fred’s report unless it is pertinent to my role as project manager. In RACI terms, I’m just an “I” – I only need to be Informed because I am not Responsible, Accountable, or Consulted on that report.
The only time you should be a buffer is when there is a specific need to do so – e.g. a personality clash between the customer and one of your key geeks and you can’t afford to lose either of them.
So keep an eye out for when you are being placed in the flow and take action to have people communicate directly with each other and just inform you of the result. Be especially vigilant for people that are using you as a buffer to buy themselves time with the plausible deniability of waiting on you!


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