Home » Risk Management » We Have To Do Something – Is Often Bad Project Management

We Have To Do Something Is Often Bad Project Management“That’s all before the financial crisis itself.  Since then we’ve had more interventions, stimulus packages, breaks for the first-time home buyers, cash for clunkers, and a two-month payroll tax cut extension.  What happens in Washington is people have to do something.  Before, we didn’t have these stimulus packages.  We had a Federal Reserve that followed a more predictable policy.  I think that’s the kind of thing we should be striving for.”  Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan 30 – Feb 5, 2012, Stanford economics professor John R. Taylor.

While I don’t have a solution for our economic woes, I do observe that what appears to be happening with “fixing” the problem is similar to what we see in business and management.  Management, being in charge and responsible for results, has to do something when things are not going right. Yes?

As Managers We Feel We Have To Do Something

What if management is out of touch with what is going on?  What if their metrics or analytics or dashboard doesn’t reflect the actual status of the organization?  Well, then we get essentially “random” management changes to an already out of control system and it, quite logically, has as much a chance to spin further out of control as it does to bring it back into control.

In the article Meeting Madness I mention how my boss, trying to reduce defects in a project, insisted I call daily meetings of all the development teams to “drive down” the size of the defect list.  Since I regularly tracked and trended the defects, it was quickly apparent that the daily meetings we were having had no impact on the size of the list or the speed at which we were resolving the issues.  Yet calling such daily meetings was a tactic the organization had used for many years on many projects. It was always a huge bullet on a status slide showing how we were proactively going after those defects!  All  it truly seemed to do was use up significant management time and in fact had resulted in new project management positions whose only job was to respond to requests on the status of defects.  With or without the daily meetings, the teams did their jobs and drove down the defects at a steady rate until we had a completed project.

Doing Nothing Is Hard But Often The Right Thing To Do

Sometimes we as project manager try to do things because we believe it is our job to do it.  This often means doing what seems obvious — which may not be the right thing to do.   Sometimes the best thing to do is to just let our teams do the jobs they know how to do.  If we have planned the project well then they will have the time and resources to complete the project on time with good quality.

Are you trying to fix problems that your team is fully capable of resolving without your help?

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5 thoughts on “We Have To Do Something – Is Often Bad Project Management

  1. Comments from around the web:

    Laura Stanley Franco, ASQ CSQE • Need more project managers with this attitude!

    Bruce Benson • Laura, agreed and thanks. Bruce

  2. Comments from around the web:

    Barnaby Golden • I was once removed from control of a smooth running development project because a senior manager thought I ‘didn’t look busy enough’. The project manager who replaced me tried to change everything and the team’s velocity dropped dramatically.

  3. Comments from around the web:

    Hal Hamilton • As one of my old bosses (the late Jim Stehlik) once told me – “we don’t need managers, we need leaders who can manage–under stress.” When things go “as planned” there should never be a problem and anyone should be able to manage the project. The issue is always one (or usually several) unforeseen events or realities. Plan well, make your direction and expectations crystal clear (that your team will handle the “as planned” with skill and dedication). Then plan your time to handle the unplanned by helping your team remove the roadblocks in their way. Leadership is a “service” job.

  4. Comments from around the web:

    Barnaby Golden • I agree completely. One of the greatest challenges in any form of management is to know when to do nothing. Management boredom is a dangerous thing.

    Bruce Benson • Barnaby,

    In fact I like to say that good project managers are boring! Even wrote an article: http://pmtoolsthatwork.com/successful-projects-are-boring/.

    People will often start to feel insecure or unwanted or unproductive if they are not knee deep in an fire or emergency somewhere. OK, wrote an article on that one too: http://pmtoolsthatwork.com/a-successful-manager-but-never-a-successful-project/.

    The trick is often to convince folks (senior managers, customers, etc.) that while things look a bit crazy, we’ll do just fine. The problem is that many have seen a history of managers saying “things are fine” when in fact things are not fine, at all. The final trick is to be able to truly distinguish between the two.

    Thanks for the comment.

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