A manager once came to me for advice on how to approach a project manager’s boss.
“My project is a disaster! I just saw a demo and there’s nothing done that was supposed to be done, but they did all this other stuff that doesn’t even matter. Now they’re telling me it’s going to be another two months to actually do what I wanted them to do. And half the programmers are saying they can’t spend any more time on it. They’re supposed to be on another project. I can’t believe the project manager messed this up so badly! I’m going to her boss. You know him better than I do. How can I get him to get rid of her and get me someone capable of getting this done?”
It took three questions to find the root cause:
- What is your project mantra? His answer was vague and confused. He wasn’t sure off the top of his head what the key deliverable was.
- What was the team’s original level of involvement and understanding? He didn’t know. The assigned business analyst drove the original meetings. But, according to him, there was a lot of documentation and it looked okay.
- How have the status meetings been going? He didn’t know. He hadn’t been to more than one or two. According to him, that was the project manager’s job!
The problem wasn’t the project manager. It was the person standing in front of me asking for someone to be held accountable.
The word “project” means something that is contemplated, devised, or planned; a task requiring considerable or concerted effort. Most of your daily time is likely spent working on some sort of project. Yet the mere mention of the word generates nightmare visions of gantt charts, time reporting, project managers constantly hounding you for status. We immediately see failure, cost and time overruns with reduced or nonexistent functionality. And when the project fails, most people blame the project manager. They push to replace the incompetent ones and hire more expensive, more experienced, better trained ones.
The answer isn’t better project management. The answer is better project sponsors.
You need to complete projects successfully, some with and some without a project manager, projects that actually make a difference to your company, your customers, and your career. If you think that’s the project manager’s job, good luck. If you are ready to be responsible for your own projects, my next posts will make you a more successful project sponsor, regardless of the size of the project or the resources at your disposal.