Effective middle manager

In a typical organization, the middle managers would have quite a big responsibility for making things happen.

So how to rock as a middle manager? Well, Here are some tips:

  1. Request clear, specific goals from your boss;
  2. Pull the work that matters;
  3. Ask your boss tough questions which challenge dominating premises;
  4. Do your best to fulfill those goals;
  5. If your boss guides you about ‘how’ to achieve the goal but you have a different idea, do present your point but once a conclusion is made, commit to it;
  6. Define clear, specific goals for your subordinates;
  7. Demand excellence. Convey that anything less than excellence will not be tolerated;
  8. Ask your subordinates tough questions, which make them discover new ways of achieving the goals;
  9. Inspire your subordinates to ask you tough questions;
  10. Inspire your subordinates to pull the work that matters.
And, you’ll rock as a middle manager.

On ineffective project managers

Probably it is time to rethink our project management strategy.

“Earlier Project Managers of our organizations have applied project management concepts so poorly that we need to switch to some other project management practice.”

“Perhaps the principles offered by PMI are not for the project managers of our organization. Why can’t we alter the project management methodology so that we can pacify our project managers?”

There’s a problem with the above thinking.

The incompetence of people in project management is never a good reason to alter the known, proven set of practices based on project management principles.

However better project management methodology poor project managers employ, they produce poor results.

Principles of project management methodologies are valued only when they’re used by the right people to produce the right results.

It’s never like those principles have worked for this set of people so it will work for other sets of people as well.

It is important to know what to change, why to change and when to change. It’s more effective when preceded by “whom” to change.

The inordinate team member

Have you ever led a team which has an inordinate team member?

In most cases, it is good to get rid of such a team member sooner than later. However, there are situations where you employ the tactical approach and don’t sack him. Or her.

The reasons could be one or more of the following:

  • When you hired him, you’d anticipated that you’d keep him and he’s serving a greater purpose than just being an inordinate team member;
  • He possesses the skills no one else would have and you make a deliberate compromise;
  • Consequences of sacking him are much worse than keeping him;
  • Or he’s just indispensable …

But if there is no such case and if such a team member is found doing one or the more of the following, it is worth sacking him sooner than later:

  • He intentionally spoils inter-team relationships;
  • His work is negatively impacting the project;
  • He diverts you from living your company vision and achieving your goals;
  • He’s replaceable …

Sure, whether to sack such a team member or not will be a situational decision but I’ve experienced that having the right person in the team is non-negotiable.

Inordinate or otherwise, if the person is not adding value to the team or team is not adding value to the person, and both are not serving the business goal, then it is better to conclude sooner than later.

Learn project management

I’m not a project manager. Why do I need to learn project management?

What, exactly, does a project manager do?

In software development, the project manager doesn’t always write code, create architecture, perform system tests, or develops and direct user experience.

And yet, no project manager, no project.

The project manager asks questions, “How do we deliver as per the scope?” “What customer satisfaction survey says about the latest release?” The project manager is always focused on delivering results, whether the result is quality, revenue or customer satisfaction.

The job you do, obviously, has nothing to do with whether or not you have the mindset of a project manager. I’ve seen talented people who are clearly project managers…and no-hopers who were just doing something for the sake of doing. I’ve worked with people who always want to get things done…and with those who have an excuse ready when something doesn’t work out.

Project management is not limited to the discipline of project management professionals – all of us can learn how to practice it for getting things done.

If you intend to produce a unique product, service or result that adds value, project management is for you – excellent beings always keep getting better in project management, regardless of their job titles.

Hire a mediocre profile

If you want to employ a software engineer, who will be a part of your long-running dedicated support team and is expected to do exactly what’s told, you might want to instruct your Recruitment team to look for profiles that are mediocre and have not so great self-esteem.

Nah, I’m not kidding.

The problem begins with the belief that the smartest, excellent and easy to recognize stars will be comfortable with your leadership style that may include dictatorship, mistreatment, misapplication, and micromanagement.

Just don’t look for top profiles with very high self-esteem for such needs. Excellent profiles are misfit here.

On the other hand, people who are mediocre, who don’t have high self-esteem or are not proud of what they have achieved so far, are potentially good fit for such needs. Think for yourself!

It’s a different thing that you may not enjoy working with such mediocre profiles and eventually, you will also become one kind of mediocrity if you continue doing so.

Or else, pause for a few minutes and retrospect. You may like to take some concrete actions about the way you lead.

Face the reality. Now, it’s not as easy to face it as reading this post. 😉

What Every Project Manager Wants to Know about Vacation Planning?

Managing Software projects is a critical job. Apart from being the face of the project, you may be the only person without a backup. It becomes challenging to plan some time off work when you don’t have a backup, isn’t it?

Many times, inexperienced project managers find it difficult planning their vacations or even if they have planned, they often cancel it at the last moment. Same is true with their normal working hours. They work for 10-14 hours a day and afraid to take some time off even on Saturdays.

By suppressing their need of some time off, they generate (and nurture) a lot of stress for themselves, their team and their families.  Unhappy spouses, unhappy children, ruined friendships, health-related issues such as high blood-pressure are found common in such project manager’s lives.

I’m not advocating that you plan your next vacation with zero regards to your project schedule or delivery commitments. If it’s a month long project, of course, you should wait. Taking a vacation a week before a major release is a definite act of irresponsibility.  But if it’s a year long project and still you’re not able to take a week or two off then you might want to reconsider how you are managing the project.

To handle this situation, the first step is to create your backups. That is to identify and develop leaders from within your team and enable them to take over your routine tasks. You mentor them, coach them and inspire them to lead beyond their title. For example, Technology Architect or Business Analyst from your team might fit your role with lesser efforts and they might feel good about being called as ‘Acting Project Manager’.

The second step is to manage the expectation of the stakeholders. Proactively plan your days off in advance at the time of creating or progressively elaborating your project plan and then let the stakeholders make aware about it, well in advance. Timely communication becomes very important here.

Take some inspiration from Agile Scrum projects wherein there is no project manager. Team itself is self-organizing and everyone does their own part of project management.  It doesn’t matter if your project is being executed using other methods, applying scrum principles such as “Inspect and adapt” can enable your team members to find more meaning out of everything they do.  Such team members would treat taking over your role as an opportunity to learn new things when you’re off for the few days.

In fact, you help the project when you take some days off. This becomes an opportunity for the team members to contribute beyond their job titles and make you pause and think about other things that are important to your life and help you make your life balanced. At a result, when you’re back on the project, you’re more energized and rejuvenated.

And, which project does not get benefited from an energized project manager?