As I have started working for bigger companies, project managers started creeping into the organizational structure. I'm having a hard time understanding why these people are ranked higher even than the technical leads. What really annoys me is that the PMs have very little technical knowledge.

The analyst usually, the tech lead, breaks down the whole project down to the smaller units of work. Even the scheduling of these items needs to be done by someone that truly understands dependencies. So, you may imagine my confusion to why these PMs, that are less technically capable people are ranked higher in org charts.

I'm going on a stretch here but I feel like a PM being over a tech lead is like an accountant being over the COO, because the former does the book keeping. So, why is it that PMs are ranked higher than teach leads?

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    there is a SE for project management, I suggest this gets moved there – ratchet freak Dec 21 '12 at 7:42
  • @ratchetfreak I know there's one, but I doubt they'd appreciate begin called accountants. :) I wanted to see what programmers thought on the matter. – Candide Dec 21 '12 at 7:52
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    CEOs typically stand above PMs and do often have less technical knowledge than them - so what do you expect? Nevertheless, I think this question does not belong here, so voting to close. – Doc Brown Dec 21 '12 at 8:35
  • @Candide it doesn't matter who you are polling or insulting, it just doesn't belong here – ratchet freak Dec 21 '12 at 8:50
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    I very much doubt this would be an acceptable question on the Project Management SE site. Moving it there isn't a better solution than closing it here. – TZHX Dec 21 '12 at 9:06

these PMs, that are less technically capable people are ranked higher in org charts.

Because at the higher ranks, it's much more about working with people and organizations, and making business decisions. Delegating, resolving conflicts, allocating resources, budgeting, company politics.

A good manager really, really doesn't need to understand technical details. He has people who do and to whose advice he listens. And the accounting you scoff at can make or break a project just as easily (more easily, actually) as techncial considerations. If doesn't matter that you made the best possible X when you cannot make it cheap enough for the people who need an X to afford, or cannot convince anyone they need an X, or find that a law says you cannot sell your X unless you go through a certification process that takes at least 3 years, or when the neighboring division has come up with an Y that will yield twice the profit margin of your X, but needs more people to build it.

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    A fantastic reply. If I could upvote this more I would. – Daniel Hollinrake Dec 21 '12 at 9:16
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    "... good technology is only 10% of success. If your management doesn't know how to manage a successful engineering project, or your marketing department doesn't know how to access the customers, or doesn't tell you what the customer wants, or if your lawyers don't handle your intellectual property correctly, or if the chief architect doesn't have the ability to create a consistent and simple architecture, then your work can be for naught, and you can spend years building things that never see the light of day." – gnat Dec 21 '12 at 11:38
  • +1 for "much more about working with people and organizations, and making business decisions." -1 for "make or break a project just as easily". honestly, being able to destroy is not reason to highly rank anybody. – Javier Dec 21 '12 at 14:10
  • @Javier: Don't see it as being able to destroy, but as being able to avoid destruction. – Michael Borgwardt Dec 21 '12 at 16:19
  • @MichaelBorgwardt ....except for "just as easily (more easily, actually)". a manager only has it easy when it's about dumping/killing a project. to make it work is not easy for him/her, much less easier than for the techs. lots of failed projects are good on the tech side but failed on the business side. – Javier Dec 21 '12 at 17:58

A good PM shouldn't be a SME (Subject Matter Expert), but it needs to be able to understand one. In other words, a good PM doesn't need to be a strong technical person, but it has to have a minimal understanding. That's why I don't think that a PM can be a PM in any field.

So now it depends if they have low or none at all technical knowledge. If they have none whatsoever, then you should question the company values and their way of selecting and promoting people.

A tech lead cannot lead a project. His focus is towards the technical part of it, unlike a PM which focus is to deliver the project in the given constraints of time, cost and scope. Which in the end is what it matters the most to a business.

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