(A guest post by Robert Kelly, PMP)
How well do you know the details of your project? If an executive called you up five minutes from now and asked for an update, could you give her one? Regular commenter Robert Kelly weighs in with an opinion piece about the need for project managers to be engaged on their projects…and not be so hands-off they don’t know what’s going on.
A colleague of mine said something the other day that sparked the following post. Let me preface this post with the fact that I have neither participated in nor do I understand the circumstances of this PM’s project. But the story I’m about to relate isn’t the first PM or organization in which I have seen this behavior. Here we go…
Our executive board recently requested that project charts (Powerpoint decks) be provided 48 hours in advance of the actual status meeting. In turn, the PM in question said she would need to build four additional days into her project plan in order to make that happen. My thought…”seriously”?
As the project manager, you essentially set the decision checkpoints. If you are an engaged PM, then you should have your thumb on the pulse of your project. American football season is starting up, so bear with me on the following…when it is rains during a game, it is said the offensive player has the advantage. They know ahead of time where they want to run, where the play is going, and how to shift their weight to accommodate the rain and conditions. On the other hand, the defensive player is always one step behind and playing catch up, as they react to the offensive players’ movements. As the PM, you know where the ‘play’ is going and should be able to adjust as needed.
If you spend two days scrambling to get information for the last 2-3 months worth of work, then you are too far removed! Some other reasons might also include:
1. Poor Documentation – Either the templates don’t fit your organization / project and don’t add value, so you don’t use them. Alternatively, you are simply not leveraging your documentation and keeping it current (ouch, sorry).
2. Lack of Ownership – Your project team members have not taken ownership for their respective function and associated deliverables. Therefore, you are scrambling to validate details and securing support for the executive meeting (knowing our organization, I think this is what led to my colleague’s position).
When this has happened to me in the past (distant past and I will not admit after today), it has always seemed to be a perfect storm…I’d slip a little bit, not use cumbersome project templates, and have to rely upon team members’ ‘support’ vs. ownership.
With today’s project management tools, it is very easy for the team to provide updates and feedback, without you as the PM being a micromanager. You may not know the latest spend to the dollar, or the status of every single bug. But as the PM you should be able to provide a near real-time update of your project even if that executive board called you on speaker phone right now. Are you on target for your next milestone? Is the budget within an acceptable range? Have there been any change requests since last meeting? If you need four days to get this sort of information, then you are playing defense.
Do you have an article you’d like to submit about the soft side of project management? By all means, please do!