In today’s PMChat, we spoke about our Project Management “approach” – how we devote time to planning, detail, subject expertise and most importantly – how we keep it together and walk the talk when we’re surrounded by noise and chaos!
Our chat was inspired by Andy Crowe’s rather excellent book Alpha Project Managers: What the 2% Know That Everyone Else Doesn’t
Andy talks about how leading PMs approach their work => how much time they allocate to planning, how involved they get in the detail, how they develop domain & product knowledge/expertise & most important, whether their deeds match their words! #PMChat
As always, I’ve added my replies in italics. Please do join the chat and add your thoughts at any time during the week – we’d love to hear what you think!
We started with Project Planning. We all agree that it’s vital to project success, but we all approach it differently.
A1. It’s hard to say, but I definitely spend a significant portion of my time planning before we commence build. Finger in the air, I’ll estimate >50%. That time is definitely weighted towards the early lifecycle stages.
Q2. The clock is ticking & the Sponsor is screaming – how do you ensure your planning gets the right priority & support from your stakeholders? How do you make the time to plan properly when you’re juggling 1000 other tasks?
A2. I’m a huge fan for Rolling Wave planning – drawing a high level 6-12 month timeline, then planning the next period (3 months, 1 month) in iteratively more detail. I provide my Sponsor with a roadmap & then add in the detail as we go along.
Next, we thought about how “hands on” you should be as a Project Manager. It’s an eternal question that challenges us to think about whether we should be “pure” PMs or whether we should have responsibility for development or delivery tasks
A3. I’ve normally operated at the 1,000 ft level, providing oversight and a link to the Sponsor and his/her strategy/drivers. It’s a function of my role as a freelancer which I know is a weakness. I’d like to be more involved in tasks and deliverables
Q4. How does your Sponsor expect you to be involved in the team’s work? Are you expected to be above the noise, or down in the weeds? Do you think these expectations of PM involvement have been consistent or have they changed over time?
A4. Over many years, I’ve seen my Sponsors consistently expect me to hover above the fray but be able to dive down into the detail where needed – whether it’ to finish an activity or to provide advice/briefing about a task or deliverable.I wonder if expectations on the PM depend on the role for which they are appointed? I’ve worked almost exclusively as a “Business” PM, with tech involvement. That might well have coloured my experiences around the level at which I “hover”.
Another perennial area of contention is Subject Matter Expertise – we thought about whether we should be jacks-of-all-trades, masters of our domains or somewhere in between.
A5. A PM with domain/product knowledge and sound PM skills adds value – they understand how to pinpoint the value-add opportunities & identify risks in a given domain. General PM skills are critical, but the ability to apply in a domain is even better.
Q6. Do your Sponsor & Project Board expect you to be a domain/product expert? Would they prefer you invest your time in learning the domain/product detail, or in engaging & understanding their needs? Maybe they expect you to do both? 🙂
A6. My Sponsors typically expect a bit both ways! They definitely want me to apply strong PM skills and identify value opportunities in a specific domain. Even if I’m not a domain expert at the beginning, I’m expected to quickly pick it up.
In our final question, we let the hair down, imagined a perfect project world without distraction, conflicting priorities or inconsistent stakeholders and thought about the Project Management approach that works best for you.
Q7. In a perfect world, how do you approach Project Management? What approach works for you? In the midst of all the froth and bubble, with people screaming around you, how do you keep it together and get your job done?
A7. I stick to the basics & ground my practice in solid foundations – Plan early, plan often. Look for value opportunities. Connect with my stakeholders in ways that makes sense. Learn the space in which I operate. Act with integrity. Be THE trusted source of advice
You’re most welcome to join PMChat – look for the #PMChat hashtag on Twitter and don’t forget our new time – Tuesday 15:00 PT, 18:00 ET, 23:00 GMT / Wednesday 01:00 SAST, 08:00 AEDT, 10:00 NZST.