Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘managers’

Management By Walking Around By Any Other Name…

Posted by iammarchhare on 24 July 2009

I have posted before about “’Hands On’ Project Management”.  This fits in real well with this topic.

Jon Emmons of Life After Coffee shared his thoughts on “Management By Walking Around”.  Basically, Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is a technique for managing people by going around, observing, chatting, etc.

What it really means to me is that you cannot manage by sitting around in your office.  You have to get your butt out of the chair occasionally and go see what is going on.  It can be tempting to just sit in the chair and shoot off the occasional email and call it “managing”, but that just isn’t particularly effective.  Get up, breathe the air, see the sights and make yourself available to your team!

One caveat: Don’t run around micromanaging everything.  If you are using this time to run around with a checklist asking, "Are you done yet?  Are you done yet?" then it will be counterproductive.  Save that for the status meetings.  The purpose of this tour is different.

The question, though, is what do you do if the team is remote?  If you can visit them, you should.  Obviously, distance will make the intervals longer, but face-to-face time can be crucial.

What you cannot do with face-to-face, you try to make up for by regular telephone conversations, video conferencing and other means of communications.

Yet, as I try to step back and view what it all really means, I realize what we are talking about in essence is something that just plain is lost on most businesses today: relationships.  People are socially geared, and they need relationships.  By constantly communicating, observing, etc, you are building a relationship.  Hopefully, you are building one of mutual respect and trust.


Posted in Leadership, People Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why Being a Project Manager is Different

Posted by iammarchhare on 5 May 2009

Are you on fire or is your hair on fire?

OK, I’ve spent a lot of time in previous posts showing how project management is primarily about management, that soft skills count the most and how being a PM is much more than doing earned value calculations every week.  How then is a PM different than any other manager?

Managers and supervisors have their roles.  They manage people.  The primary objective of a project manager is to get a project completed.  These are complimentary roles.  You cannot get a project done without the people, and without successful projects the people are likely to get let go in today’s economy.  The roles are similar, but they have a different focus.

I’m still amazed at just how many organizations still don’t understand the role of a project manager.  A project manager:

  1. Stays calm in the storm.  When everyone else panics and runs around with their hair on fire, the PM will execute the contingency plan.

  2. Cuts through the noise.  When people try to make it hard and complicated, then the PM’s job is to break things down and simplify them.  This is true when building a WBS, it is true when gathering customer requirements, and it is true when troubleshooting an issues.

  3. Plans for things to go wrong.  Unexpected events always occur.  What is the plan when, not if, things go wrong?

  4. Knows when others are not living up to their end of the bargain.  You may not have direct control over the people, but you at least can identify when things are not getting done.

  5. Knows the experts to turn to when things go wrong.  These people may or may not be on your project team.

  6. Knows how to recognize people when things go right.  It would be a shame if good team members get reviewed by their direct manager/supervisor and that manager/supervisor doesn’t know of all the good things the team member has accomplished.

  7. Motivates people to do better and to improve.

  8. Always does a lessons learned and always looks for ways to improve.

A good project manager is on fire for getting out a quality result and making improvements to how things get done.  A good project manager is not one who runs around with their hair on fire just because that’s the way it’s always been done.

Posted in PM Basics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Most Important Project Management Skill

Posted by iammarchhare on 30 March 2009

The often overlooked skill that every PM needs

What skill is essential for project managers?  Is it EVM?  Is it using MS Project?  Is it creating a WBS?  No, it is none of these.

Many people have a misconception of what a project manager does.  Unfortunately, many of these may themselves be project managers.  If you believe that playing with spreadsheets and MS Project schedules are all that is required, then it is time to sit up and take notice.  If your idea of project management is running around with a notepad checking up on people’s tasks every couple of hours, then perhaps you need to step back and give that some reconsideration.

A project manager is responsible for quite a few things.  Since many came up through the technical ranks, some of these activities may be new when promoted to a project lead or project manager.  Let’s look at a few of the things a project manager is responsible for:

1. The completion of the product the project was intended to produce.  In other words, you must meet the needs and expectations of the user.  In order to do this, you must be able to communicate and build a solid understanding with the user and sponsor.

2. The completion of the project on time, on budget and in scope.  In order to do this, you must be able to talk to the subject matter experts (SMEs), understand their estimates and concerns.  You must be able to tell the user what is and is not in scope for the project.  You must be able to communicate the schedule and the budget to the sponsor.  You must be able to influence resource managers to give up resources for your project.

3. The tracking and communicating of changes throughout the life of the project.  You will likely have to negotiate and renegotiate scope throughout the life of the project.

4. Motivating the team to complete the project.  You must do this, even though in many organizations the team does not report to you.  You must sell them on the project and motivate them to put out a quality product.

5. Clearing obstacles to getting work done.  This can be anything from people who interfere with the team’s work to access to a particular piece of equipment.

6. Ensure that risks and issues are dealt with in an effective and timely manner.

I could go on, but I think this is sufficient to point out some skills that aren’t necessarily found in a book on PM: Communication, ability to influence, negotiation, ability to motivate, sales, obstacle removal and resolution of risks and issues.

What do these have in common?

A project manager is put in charge of a project to help ensure the success of a project.  How do you ensure the success of anything?  Don’t you influence people, motivate people, lead people, collect and organize resources?  If so, you are managing them.

Yes, the one skill that is often overlooked in project management, believe it or not, is management.  You, not the resource manager, have to influence and motivate the team.  You, not the sponsor, have to lead the team.  You have to manage them.  Fortunately, people usually do want to do a good job, and that makes the job easier.  Yet, too many times PMs can get in their own way and affect how the team performs if they are not conscious of their leadership role on the team.

Manage – To direct the affairs or interests of.  To succeed in accomplishing or achieving, especially with difficulty.

It is time to put the “management” aspect back into project management.

Posted in PM Basics | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Project Management for Non-project Managers

Posted by iammarchhare on 24 March 2009

When you were growing up and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, did you exclaim, “I want to be a project manager”?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

All of us had to start somewhere, though.  We all had that first project.  In addition, if you are a project lead or a supervisor, you will likely have to head up some projects yourself.  That’s why I wrote “Project Management for Non-project Managers” on Helium.   It will take you through the (very) basics.


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