Project managers as coaches?

In a recent Cutter newsletter, Jim Highsmith floats the idea of using project managers as coaches: Although I think there are several tasks for the project manager during the execution of an iteration cycle, one of the most important ones is coaching and team building. Teams have two broad categories of skills -- technical and behavioral; that is, the abilities to accomplish the technical work and the abilities to work well together as a team. Often the team's technical abilities outstrip its teamwork abilities. The project manager can contribute to members' learning the latter.

It is an admirable objective but I think that few project managers actually have the teamwork (or communication) skills required to achieve it. In an early blog post I set out how I see the difference in roles between a project manager, technical lead and coach, and I still think that the split makes sense. (Except in a small team of course where several roles need to be undertaken by a single person). Mostly this is about keeping the coach's focus on longer-term team and process improvement independent of the manager's focus on shorter-term software delivery, but there is also an overlap with the principles of the power of three pattern.