Saturday, September 24, 2016

How does a PM manage peers?

One topic that does not come up very often with PMs is how to manage one’s peers. Yes, we have discussions about managing the project team and managing one’s managers or “managing up.” You may ask, “Why should I be concerned with managing my peers? Don’t I have enough to do managing my project team?” Well, yes you do, but if you want to be an effective manager, you have to manage your peers. This brings me to my favorite PM, Bob.
Bob is on a team of PMs that implements software for a specific industry. Bob has been an implementation PM for most of his career and has capitalized on his successes and accumulated a good list of lessons learned from his few project failures. Bob understands how to manage his project team and is aware that he must also manage up. However, what he has learned lately is that he must also manage his peers. Not so much in the way that PMs think of management, but in the sense that he must keep himself informed of other PMs’ issues and problem projects. Why? Because Bob has learned that being successful may mean that you can “inherit” other PM’s failures and be unfortunate enough to be the “go-to PM” for the wrong reasons.
So how does Bob manage his peers?

Bob suggests a monthly lunch with the other PMs

Bob sees that some PMs on his team are not as successful with their projects. So Bob suggests a monthly lunch with his PM team to discuss current projects and issues. He suggests that the PMs do so without management in order to get everyone’s objective and unfiltered opinions without fear of reprimands. (We all know that some of us do not express the complete story of one’s project in a general PM meeting with management in attendance.)
What Bob is trying to do is get the unfiltered issues out in the open for all PMs to comment on. Bob sets some ground rules for the PMs. They are:
·        Confidentiality
·        No personal judgments
·        No back-stabbing.

Bob helps other PMs as best he can

Bob also knows that at times a personal touch is necessary when a PM is having issues with a particular project. If Bob’s schedule allows, he mentions to the PM that that he is available to provide one-on-one advice in confidence. Unless management has made the suggestion, Bob ensures that these personal discussions are kept private, as he does not want to be seen as the “snitch.” Nor does Bob want to be seen as the “shoulder to cry on” PM. He wants to be seen as the PM who can help, within limits of course, and as the PM that has staff management capabilities.

Bob ensures that management is aware of his efforts

With the exception of in-confidence discussions, Bob ensures that his management team knows that he is involved and is invested in the team’s’ success.  Bob is discrete but visible to his management team for a reason. Bob shows that he can be trusted by his fellow PMs and that he is a knowledgeable PM that everyone goes to for suggestions and help. This increases Bob’s worth as a reliable PM and a future manager of PMs. You see, Bob not only believes in the open door management style but also believes in the “open mind” management style. Bob has heard many times the old saying, “What good is an open door, if you have a closed mind.” Bob has been at the wrong end of an open door and closed mind philosophy and it is one of his lessons learned.
Bob also ensures that the other PMs know that their problem projects are still theirs. They must lead their project to success. Bob can make suggestions and in extreme cases even lend a helping hand. But the PM on the project bears the responsibility for their own team and issues.
Bob is successful in his organization because he understands the “rules of engagement” when it comes to managing his peers:
·        Suggest an informal PM meeting without management
·        Suggest an informal one-on-one meeting with PMs having issues
·        Ensure that management values his input with other PMs
Bob is looked on by his peers as a person who can be trusted as well as a resource for project management and Bob does not want to have “red” projects dropped into his lap because the current PM on the red project is not seen as the PM who can complete the project. 

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.