When you talk to many consultants about managing projects then they tend to offer the 'helicopter' view of the world. The conversation is based around concepts like vision, planning, delivery, scope etc etc. Whilst this is key to project success -- you can't complete a successful project without a clear roadmap, there is often a disconnect between the management view of a project and the work that is going in in the trenches. The reason? The devil is in the detail and someone needs to be down in the trenches tracking activity and issues on a daily basis. What does that mean? It means someone needs to:
  1. Understand (the relevant portion of) the project plan at the detailed task level
  2. Identify and track all issues and risks
  3. Monitor daily progress (this can be a lot easier when using test driven development and testable features style approach)
  4. Have a good grasp of the technical and project impacts that issues create when they occur (NB -- The business impacts are the job of the project manager and customer)
  5. Have the courage to describe things as the really are and suggest unpalatable options
Now in my view that should be a major portion of the activity performed by a senior team lead. However in my experience team leads rarely have the inclination or authority to fulfil this vital role, they seem themselves as 'superior' developers focused primarily on technical and architectural issues (which are also important of course). So it's up to the project manager to either do this work themselves or identify suitable individuals who can take on this role. It is important to think outside of the box and consider all possible options when looking for these people, they usually don't jump and down saying 'Oh me sir, please sir!'. If you do find people with such potential then mentor them and nurture them well. They will become future project managers and will help save your bacon on the current project.