Monday, October 27, 2014

New Project Manager?

Are you a new Project Manager?

Author: Neil A. Alan

You have recently been promoted to the position of project manager.  Your team consists of senior members of the technical staff, and it is time to establish team-operating rules.  You expect some resistance because the team is experiences and you are a project manager who they see as still “challenged”.  How would you go about doing this?

Senior technical staff are generally highly focused and extremely busy individuals.  That’s how they became senior technical staff.  This new project manager is probably correct that he or she is going to get resistance from the team or from individual team members, but with the right planning and forethought – our new project manager can make a strong first impression which will likely carry through the project.  Here are a few pointers for our new project manager to use to make his or her job easier.

Our new project manager should establish the team operating rules in writing and in executive format.  Do not make a big deal or create the team operating rules with great fanfare.  Deliver the team operating rules in a PowerPoint presentation sent via email.  This way the team members can read them quickly and on their own schedule.  The senior technical staff should already have a method for managing their time and this delivery method should be already be very comfortable for them.

Our new project manager should avoid seeking approval for each point of the team operating rules.  There should be an opportunity for senior technical staff to make changes to the rules as the project begins, but our new project manager should avoid trying to gain approval from each of the senior technical staff as if the team members were the project manager’s parent.  Senior technical staff do not want to manage the project and will be comfortable with a junior project manager if the junior project manager acts with confidence and authority.  Things will get increasing more difficult if the project manager is constantly seeking the approval of the team by asking “is that ok” or “do you agree”?  It is possible to be collaborative without reaching consensus.

Daily status meetings are a great way to manage senior technical staff, but they will be extremely reluctant to buy into this method of team management.  Senior technical staff hate meetings and our project manager is asking for an additional five meeting each week.  These meeting must be highly organized and time bound.  Our project manager should visit the Human Factors blog ( and learn how to build a Scrum clock.  This clock will be hung on the wall where the daily status meeting will take place and will help keep the schedule for the meeting.  For the first week the project manager will run the daily status meeting.  The meeting absolutely must start on-time every day even if all of the team members are not yet present.  The meeting will end promptly fifteen minutes later.  Under no circumstances will the status meeting go over.  If there are items that need to be discussed, they will be discussed during meetings that will be scheduled for later in the day or later in the week.  After the first week, our project manager will periodically pick a different senior technical staff member to run the daily meeting.

By sharing the responsibilities of the status meeting and watching our new project manager lead the group, the senior technical will see that our project manager will not be adding more work to their already busy schedule.  This will quickly establish respect for our new project manager and will pay huge dividends as the project progresses.

©2014 Neil A. Alan - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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