Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who is the Go-to Senior Manager During a Project?

The Project Manager (PM) has limitations to his/her authority during a project. Since a project is a temporary endeavor, there is a limitation inherent to it which can limit the PM’s influence.   So, the PM must know who is the final decision maker for the project. Most of the time, this is the project sponsor. Sometimes, the PM must go out of the “inner-circle” of the project and go to a mentor or senior manager who knows the organization very well. So, what is a PM to do?
Establish a network, and include senior managers
When a PM joins an organization, one of the first things he/she must do is to begin to lay the groundwork to become an effective PM. One of the tasks is to establish his/her network in that organization. How a PM does that is by beginning to conduct the work he/she has been hired to do and observe the actions of management. Sooner rather than later, the PM will begin to see a pattern in the person or persons who seem to make the final decision(s).  Those are the people whom the PM must associate with. 
Now if one of the influential senior managers becomes a project sponsor on one of the PM’s projects, that alignment becomes a little easier. Allow me to be clear: I am NOT suggesting kissing up for the sake of getting favors. Most senior managers will see right through that and will react negatively to that action. What I am suggesting takes more effort than just kissing up. I am not suggesting that the PM take an interest in the senior manager’s personal life. What I am suggesting is that the PM meet with the senior manager and inquire as to what aspects he/she considers to be most important to the project. The PM should understand the senior manager’s pain points regarding the project and what the senior manager expects from the project team.
What is the value proposition?
The question of value proposition is typically thought of in the context of employment: How can the applicant show their value or worth to the hiring organization to acquire the position? However, value proposition can also be considered in the context of project delivery. If the PM wants to have the senior manager as an ally, the PM must communicate and deliver the value of the project. If the PM can explain and deliver the value, the senior manager, as well as other senior managers, will take notice. The value of the PM goes up as he/she is viewed as successful.
This can usually be communicated easily if the project has been aligned strategically with the organizations goals. If the project sponsor understands this, then explaining the value proposition of the project is easily done.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

If it is the PM’s project then why isn’t the PM allowed to manage it?

Of all the questions and remarks I receive, this is by far the one I see most often. To be more direct, “What is the position title? Project what?” You see, I believe that if the title has the word “manager” in it, then the organization must hire managers. If they do not expect the person to manage, then I strongly suggest that the title be project administrator. As a matter of fact, I know of one organization that refuses to use the term Project Manager (PM).   But on the other hand, some PMs deserve to have the title of project administrator. Yes, I know there are some organizations or even some program managers who are micro-managers that are difficult to work for.
Thus, there can be many different perspectives regarding the PMs’ role and how they are viewed in an organization. What I would like to discuss is how a PM can get a feel for this organizational challenge. This can occur when a PM interviews for a position or is part of a merger or a re-org. But there may also come a time where a PM must take a hard look at him/herself in order to manage effectively.
When a PM interviews with a firm…
A PM (or any interviewee) can get a good idea of how an organization values their PM staff by the questions asked during the interview and the reaction to questions by the PM. A PM can get a sense of what the core beliefs of an organization are by the way the organization speaks to them. This is especially evident during the interview with the hiring manager. Watch how the hiring manager speaks--not just what the manager says, but how the manager says it. Watch not only the facial expressions, but also the body language. There has been many Myers-Briggs or DISC studies to distinguish the type of person the PM will be dealing with. I will not go over the published studies, but I am cautioning the PM to be aware of them and use them to distinguish how a manager will deal with the PM and the company PM community as a whole.
                        When a PM is part of a change in the organization…
Mergers and re-orgs are part of the changing landscape that a PM must deal with. With those changes, there may also be changes in how senior management deals with the PM community. In a PSO, this type of change may come every quarter. In a PMO, this change may not come as often, and presents a challenge to PMs who are used to a certain type of management. I caution and challenge every single PM reading this blog of this certainty: change is the new normal. Be prepared (as the Boy Scouts correctly state) for anything and everything. I am not suggesting there won’t be any surprises in the form of management change. That would be foolish. However, I am stating that our mentality must adjust to the new normal. And this change may take the form of how senior management deals with the PM community in that organization.
The PM must look in the mirror…
There is an old saying, “To thine own self be true.” Know yourself, and if you see that change must happen, the best place to start is with yourself. There are many organizations and personal coaches out there that can help assess your professional or personal life and provide you with sound, measureable steps to improve yourself. Or, if you believe you have all of the certifications professionally that are needed for a PM, then maybe you have to look away from a professional perspective and look to a personal one. I cannot provide a one-size-fits-all statement or belief that would satisfy every reader.  You have to take control and manage yourself. Once that happens, then you can manage others. If you show improvement, others will notice, including senior management. Once that happens, then the PM may receive more authority of the project and/or resources. Until that happens, then the PM must manage with what the PM has.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.