Now that I’ve addressed the main addressable points about working with lazy project managers, let me leave you with some general points. First off, if you want to (and you WANT to, I know) resolve your problems with lazy people in general, this resolution comes through direct communication and documentation. In fact, document EVERYTHING. Any request you know that was made and not fulfilled, mark it with a description, date, and time (and if you want, a severity level). (more…)
Project managers are essential to system functioning, but as I described before, some are just plain lazy! Take a look at the post to get an idea of some problems that arise, but here, I want to discuss some strategies to deal with them.
- They don’t respond to requests for information. One thing I have learned through my life is that people will communicate only as much as they deem necessary to maintain whatever level they want to have with you. I mean, if they don’t want to talk to you and converse, get over it! You can’t force something that won’t happen, so don’t push for a friendly relationship that is mutually beneficial. If the PM is unconcerned with that email you sent out yesterday, and avoiding the telephone call you made earlier today, the time has come for you to walk over and ask your question in person. They can’t push you out effectively when you’re standing there staring at them. (One caveat to this, of course, is ensuring that they ACTUALLY are ignoring you and not merely too busy to respond)
- They come to meetings noticeably unprepared. The boy scout motto of being prepared is ignored by many people including those lazy PM’s who can’t seem to understand that meetings have one purpose: to get things done. To “help” them out, a couple days before the meeting, contact them (actually speak to them, no voice mails or emails) and ask what they plan to have accomplished at this week’s meeting. You likely won’t get an answer to this request on the phone, so leave them with some things YOU expect to have discussed. Follow up with an email to the group asking for their input on what needs to get decided during the meeting, and on the day of, ask the PM for an agenda of the items that need to be discussed that day. If they don’t provide one in time for the meeting, print out the emails your team has thrown around and have them ready. If the PM won’t take charge of the meeting, the time has come for you to do so. Now, at least you’ve given everyone a day or two chance to add items and you can begin with your own concerns, and move on to those of everyone else.
- They behave reactively, rather than proactively. This personality trait is one that takes time to overcome, and effort. First step here is to be proactive yourself. If you push them to think of things before they want to, it will likely get done before they would have accomplished it. I don’t mean to inundate their inbox with emails or harass them with phone calls, but rather, at the beginning of the day, contact them and discuss the points you need to be discussed. This will force their brain to align itself to yours for at least the moment. If you ask for resolutions to issues, discuss with them how long it will take, and call them shortly before the due-date. If you wait until the due-date is reached, you’re pushing back the procrastination beyond YOUR acceptable limit.
- They are unresponsive unless the boss asks or you go talk in person. My overarching point in this area is that communication is up to YOU. If they don’t reply until you go talk in person, perhaps you need to speak to them in person every time you need to talk. Again, they can’t ignore you when you’re standing in front of them, so that’s what is needed. If there is a pattern of unresponsiveness, you may need to move on to their boss to find out a more effective way of keeping them accountable. That could mean emailing their boss first, and having the boss ask them directly to ensure that communications are responded to.
The long and short of it is that when people aren’t responding to you, or doing their job correctly and effectively, there is a problem with the team, and that problem needs to be resolved. These are some strategies to employ when you’re first seeing problems, or when you feel that the problems can be resolved without much escalation. My next post will discuss what to do when these simple strategies don’t work.
I’ve already discussed that project managers are a necessary addition to a development team, as well as the fact that some are overzealous, which takes its toll on the team dynamics. Today I want to discuss why lazy project managers are actually terrible and destructive additions to any development team.
- They don’t respond to information requests. How many times have you contacted someone with a question and not wanted to receive a reply? I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me, because generally I ask questions with the expectation of an answer. This is no different for project managers, and in fact, the majority of their job is balancing the plates up in the air while shuffling people toward the end goal. This requires providing INFORMATION when individuals need it. An engineer, artist, designer, etc. should not have to ask twice, or even three times for an answer that is relatively easy to obtain.
- They come to meetings noticeably unprepared. I’ve been to numerous meetings where everyone arrives on time, is ready to contribute and discuss, and all that is necessary is the person in charge to get things underway. In fact, the project manager has that duty. So, the meeting begins, he/she then asks what needs to get discussed. Wait a minute, shouldn’t the purpose of a meeting be to have an agenda? A plan of action? Open ended meetings tend to be rather unproductive and useless, which is why we rely upon the manager of the project to get things focused. Not knowing where people are, what they are to do, or why the meeting was being held in the first place is a huge issue with productivity in teams.
- The behave reactively, rather than proactively. A sign of any truly great person is their ability to see problems ahead and act on those before they become a problem. Lazy project managers, however, sit in their cubicles and no one really knows what they’re doing with their time. The idea is based on the knowledge that they don’t go out of their way to resolve issues ahead of time. Until YOU go speak to them, the issue doesn’t exist as far as they’re concerned, and in reality, once you leave their office, it gets shoved to the back burner for some YouTube amusement.
- Are unresponsive unless 1. The boss asks, or 2. you go and talk in person. Everyone is interested in maintaining their job placement for as long as it suits them. This is a fact of the working world, so of course, when the boss asks a question, the answer must be somewhat forthcoming. With non-supervisor people, however, the communication channels tend to be more lacking. In fact, sometimes, the communication becomes non-existent. This forces the coworkers to actually go to the project manager with questions because they likely will never get answered via the telephone or email.
- They destroy team enthusiasm and engagement. This is less a feature of lazy project managers, and more of a symptom of having one on a team. When a project manager is performing their duties to the best extent possible, they provide a level of cohesiveness to the team that is hard to obtain any other way. This aspect is removed, however, when the project manager is lazy with respect to their duties. The ties of comradery never fully develop, and in fact, many times are reduced to merely “having to” work with your team on some project that no one cares about.
There are some things I’m missing in the above list, however, these are the most problematic issues I have seen in my time engineering. Project managers can, and I would argue MUST, be the lynch-pin in any development project. Success or failure to launch lies significantly on their shoulders, and as such, they should be treated with reverence and respect so long as they get off their asses and do it.
Mind you, more often than not, the project managers I have worked with have been proactive and successful, but those that cause problems are the ones that stick out in peoples’ minds.
What have I missed? Am I off-base? Let’s discuss in the comments!