I am sitting in the Minneapolis airport thinking about projects that I have worked on and it occurs to me that if Jeff Foxworthy had been a project manager that he might have had a different comedy act. Everyone that I know appreciates Jeff’s take on “You might be a Redneck, if”. In fact, many of us can find a friend, relative, colleague, acquaintance or politician that falls in that category. My particular favourite is paraphrased as follows “If you cut your grass and find cars, refrigerators and furniture, you might be a redneck.” I remember when my husband and I bought our first house together after we were married and the house at the end of our street absolutely fit that description. The only difference was they also had play structures, lawn equipment and a myriad of other items in the weeds. They were personally offended when the city made them cut their small weed plantation and asked us to sign an appeal to the city so that they could maintain their work of art. We didn’t.
How does this relate to project management and project managers? I routinely talk to project managers about “Bagging the Evidence”. It is more important to prove the existence of project management processes, practices and protocols than it is to prove the lack of it. I hear project managers talk about ‘not doing any of that’ in our company. In reality, they do ‘some of that’ but no one can prove it. I would agree with many of you that there are project managers looking for someone else to manage the mess they made so they can get on with ‘looking good’ in front of the sponsors.
So I thought that it would be fun to look at what would be required to prove the existence of project management at work, at home, at play or just doing something you love, like quilting. With Jeff Foxworthy’s indulgence, here is the project management take on the redneck story.
You might be a project manager if,
- you lead from the front. You absolutely must be able to demonstrate to your team that you are holding yourself to the same standards that you are holding them. If they report actual progress on tasks, you do. If they create change requests, you do. If they contribute information and ideas, you shut-up and listen. The title project manager doesn’t give you a licence to own all the good ideas.
- you give credit where credit is due. See above. Early in my career, I worked for an individual who was unable to let a letter or report go out the door without her personal edits. Unfortunately, she didn’t know squat about technology so she almost always put the organization at risk with her modifications. Her problem! She needed to be the person who got the credit. Consequently, she sold a lot of us up the river without paddles.
- you have a current schedule. You can actually manage the project from the schedule rather than from the mythical network diagram that is in your head. Since we can’t hook your head to an LCD projector with all your assumptions and display it on a wall for public discussion, it is time to get with the program.
- you can report from ‘said current’ schedule. I enjoy the excitement when a project manager is asked to provide a report and they take a week to get the project into ‘a state’ where the report can be generated. Oh! And ! They are the only ones who could possibly do it.
- you actually enter actual progress into the schedule. This is the ‘yah right’ discussion. It can’t happen in our organization. No one will give me the information I need. Have you ever asked? I know project managers who spend more time trying to make the update of the schedule someone else’s job. Just do it. It is part of your job.
- you have change requests, change order or whatever you call it in your organization for all changes regardless of the size of the change. It is called history. If you don’t know why something was requested, how do you know whether it should be done? How can you defend a team member’s recommendation without documentation?
- the documentation is up to date and visible to all the stakeholders. One of the reasons that enterprise project management solutions fail is because ‘cowardly’ project managers don’t want anyone to see anything. I am all for security and fully understand that there is some information that isn’t for public disclosure. But, locking everything down on your laptop for job security isn’t just stupid, it is poor legacy planning.
The lesson is ‘if you want to carry the title, you have to do the work. You’ll note that I didn’t say that you had to like the work but you have to do the work.” This falls under statements like, doing it right the first time. This is a fundamental tenant of quality management. Remember, it is the team that does the work. Some days, you are just the lion tamer.
It strikes me that this could be a fun series. If you think of anything to contribute, we’ll use it in a future blog. Once a month, we can add to the list and provide our peers and colleagues with a solid list of what their job description is.
To our Canadian and US customers and friends, Happy Canada Day (July 1) and Happy Independence Day (July 4). Have safe journeys wherever you are.