Project Management Pairing

In web development, you’ll often hear of pair programming, a practice where two developers work together to write and refine code. Or even design pairing – when a designer and developer pair to refine designs together in-browser. But you don’t often hear of pairing when it comes to project or client management.

lone wolf

The lone wolf

In my experience, digital project management at fast-paced agencies can be a solo role. Often times, this works great and allows a PM to run the project without having too many “cooks in the kitchen”. However, this setup can leave us isolated during project challenges and missing out on the advantage of learning from the strengths and experience of other project managers.

What Is Project Management Pairing?

Recently, myself and my fellow project management coworkers have been experimenting with pairing in project management with great results. For the purposes of this article, I’m defining pairing as simply working together with a peer on the same task. On a simpler side, we may have two project managers planning a kickoff meeting together, or even as much as two project managers on the same project splitting duties but collaborating on overall strategy.

Real World Examples

Lately, pairing has taken on the following forms for me:

  • Working together on certain PM tasks together: planning kickoffs, writing complex scopes, building resource schedules
  • Asking fellow PMs to review and offer feedback on important documentation
  • Weekly project manager gatherings where we share individual project challenges and seek group advice

Pairing Advantages

Working together on tasks might seem like a simple idea, but having a support system of peers can be a welcome relief for a digital PM who often does not have this advantage. Here are some specific benefits we noticed:

Increased Efficiencies

Having two people completing tasks may not seem budget-friendly, but efficiency has been one of the best results. Having the opportunity to draw from the experience of another PM can often save time on both planning and execution. For example, I recently worked on a project very similar to an engagement a coworker had managed a few years back. We paired on a portion of the planning which proved invaluable as she immediately passed along her own learnings and specific methods which resulted in better upfront planning and a more efficient project flow.

Opportunity for Learning & Modeling

Digital project management can often be very fluid and call for a lot of judgment that is more art than science. Pairing is great way to learn how another PM handles abstract situations and challenges and learn from their example. We all bring our own different styles and strengths that serve us well at different aspects of the job. Recently, I split PM duties on a very large project where I took on a secondary role during the initial planning phases. It really was a wonderful opportunity for me to have a front row seat into how another PM schedules, plans and communicates during the intensive first phases of a new project. I added several new tools to my own process by watching him.

Happy Project Managers

Managing digital projects is a challenging role with a variety of challenges to solve, yet often does not have a lot of training of support resources. I’m happy that this gap is starting to be filled, but giving PMs increased support will go a long way toward happy, healthy team members. Roles like developers often have an abundance of meetups, training, forums, code reviews and peers to support developers to grow in their skills and help them when they become “stuck”. Pairing is one way to help offer peer training and support to project managers to reduce stress and better thrive in their roles.

Perhaps your organization as a tight-knit group of PMs, or you have have an hierarchy of account or project staff to all contribute to a project. But, for those of us in more solo-type roles, pairing can be a good learning experience as well as a welcome second hand.

Leave a Comment