Thursday, March 06, 2008

How to Handle Project Managers

There is only one thing you need to do to keep a project manager happy: Tell them how long it takes!

If you think you will be done in three hours, tell them! If you think you will be done in three days, tell them! If you don’t know if it will take between three and five days, tell them! If your original estimate does not hold, tell them! If the task is to large or fuzzy to estimate, tell them! If you don’t have a clue, get one or get yourself another job! If they think your estimates are to large, tell them to do it themselves, then, get yourself another job!

The main thing to be aware about with project managers is: They don’t produce anything of value! No matter how much they belive that their status reports and powerpoint slides are progress, they aren’t, they show progress. This is why they are happy when they know how long you will take to complete a task; it makes them believe that they are in control.

Does this mean that project managers are useless? Not at all! An invalueble project manager can make the difference between a failing project and a successful one. So, what separates a invalueble project manager from a useless one?

  • An invalueble PM asks you when you will be done; a useless one tells you when you have to be done.
  • An invalueble PM asks you what he can do to help; a useless one why you are not done.
  • An invalueble PM shares everything; a useless one shares as little as possible.
  • An invalueble PM takes responsibility for a failing project; a useless one blames the team.
  • An invalueble PM gives the team credit for success; a useless one takes credit himself.
  • An invalueble PM cares about the team and the project; a useless one about himself.
  • An invalueble PM inspires the team; a useless one makes the team indifferent.
  • An invalueble PM has a happy team; a useless one a miserable team.
  • An invalueble PM knows that he is not invalueble; a useless one thinks he is.

No matter what kind of PM you have. Tell them how long it takes! works.


Unknown said...

Just imagine if all the PL-courses out there would use this text as the ultimate "truth"!

MartinRL said...

Sounds a lot like SCRUM to me (a good thing).

/Martin - software developer, certified SCRUM master, and former colleague of Anders

Anonymous said...

I think probably you should pad your estimate before giving it to the Project Manager.

The thing is I don't really agree with you that Project Managers are useless and their job is only to make those reports and powerpoint presentations. Maybe they do not produce work themselves, but the thing is, in this day and age, work cannot be finished without them. They manage the project. Their duties are beyond rescuing a failing project or providing support (check this article for a comprehensive list of project manager duties ). They manage risks, they shield the team from the stakeholders and they manage quality...

They do get a lot of work done, some don't, but then again, not every Project Manager is a real Project Manager.

Anders Janmyr said...

PM Hut: What makes you think that I think PMs are useless? The whole second part of the post points out the difference between a useless and an invaluable PM.

All I'm saying is that there are good and bad PMs. And that the frustration of being a PM comes from having to rely on others to get the job done. That said, I have come across more bad PMs than good...

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic article! I've worked with both types during my engineering career. The good ones can make a project shine, and are always sought after for the next major project. The bad ones can single-handedly ruin a healthy project and the team's mental health.

I agree with Kristian, this text should be the opening slide to EVERY project management continuing education course.

Anders Janmyr said...

@Anonymous, thanks for your kinds words!

PM Hut said...

As someone with a project management experience and who knows a project manager, I can tell you that many times what the developer says is not what the project manager wants to hear. However, honesty is the best policy, and trying to shine in front of the PM by telling him that a 3 day task will only take you 2 days will definitely backfire on you, and him as well.