Friday, June 12, 2009

All Pain and No Gain

Clients are still unhappy, your manager is not patting you on the back, the developers grumble about everything, the projects are still not getting done timely or with quality and you’re running out of beer. Project Managers often go into new situations with the best of intent only to find that process changes provide poorer results then what existed…why is that? In most cases the answer is simple – the wrong problem was addressed. The Gantt chart, resource allocation , bug tracking, task management wonder tool was used like a circular saw in a ice cream shop – resulting in havoc, despair and unemployment.

Political, territorial, ego sensitive, insecure, unsure, over bearing people (aka The Team) who have trouble being in the same room with even themselves will have no problem entering time estimates in project plans or nodding their heads in process review meetings, BUT try to get them to truly change to a more productive and cooperative relationship with others, based on a Gantt chart, is like trying to pry a icy cold beer out of my end-of-week tired of the nonsense hands, it ain’t happening.

Rule #1 – know thy problem, don’t listen to people when they’re telling you the issues, LISTEN to them, are they naming names, are they talking about past attempts that failed, are they sneering at you, do they seem distracted, focused on everything but their area of responsibility, are they there or mentally removed? Look at people’s desks, how they interact, the environment they’re working in and how they treat each other. Do the managers provide clear direction? Do people show up on time OR at all to meetings?

Rule #2 – assume you don’t have an answer, don’t come into a situation with a answer before you really now the problem (go back to Rule #1). It’s easy to look back at historic events and come up with better plans (gee, if I was George Washington I would have purchased some of the new tanks to take care of the British…) THE tough part is coming into a situation not knowing how it’s going to turn out and actually making a significant positive difference. Spend time with Rule #1 before even thinking about the solution.

Rule #3 – communication and consistency, nothing unexpected should be done and whatever is done should be consistent. Let people know what your planned changes are, tell them what impact it directly has on them, tell them the truth and consistently apply the corrective actions – if there were no exceptions there would be no need for the rules.

Rule #4 – don’t back off, but don’t close your eyes to change. Change is tough, getting people to change habits is a painful process – search out the positive and acknowledge and reward it, search out the negative and apply the appropriate correction, don’t shy away from the job…and don’t close your eyes to the possibility that all of your plans are correct, be open to change and rethinking, but be cautious about any decision to move off course – over correction is sometimes worse than no correction.

Rule #5 – realize that it doesn’t end, there’s no end to improvement, there’s no end to doing things better there’s no end to problems….

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