Tips on good project management are as common as pre-printed Royal Wedding memorabilia, and they’re just as useful, too. After all, if project management was just about following instructions, we wouldn’t have construction projects going years beyond deadlines or Fast Ferries being sold for scrap metal.
Fact: Nobody knows what a well-managed project looks like. When it happens, it’s virtually invisible. Since it caused no delays, broke no budget, and made nobody angry, there was no reason to even notice it. It’s like a polite dog or a car with a good muffler—so harmless and tame nobody even bothers talking about it.
Now, a poorly done project, there’s a case study we can learn from. It’s loud, noisy, and fails spectacularly, like a celebrity in a tailspin. Show me a project manager doing it wrong, and I’ll have an example of what not to do.
For those of us who need to see it broken in order to know how to fix it, here is our guide: tips and tricks for becoming the world’s worst project manager.
1. Say yes to everything When a client suggests a neat technical idea but you’re not sure if your team can do it, say yes. When you’re asked if the project can be delivered two weeks earlier than planned, say yes. When the client wants to add more features to a project that already has a defined scope, say yes. The answer is always yes.
2. Always assume Not quite sure what’s needed? While you might be tempted to clearly define the requirements, this time, just take a stab: guess intelligently at what the requirements are, and then get the team started right away. The client will thank you for your intuition and sensitivity.
3. Avoid hard conversations If a red flag pops up, fiercely cram that back down into your subconscious. If there’s any area of concern, a hint of the project being delayed or running into trouble, enter lockdown mode and lower the blackout blinds. Do not acknowledge the issue to yourself, and do NOT tell the client about it. If you ignore it, it will go away.
4. Don’t bother the client Your goal is to stay out of the client’s inbox, off their caller ID, and clear of their voicemail. They less they hear of you, the happier everybody will be. What, are you some kind of needy, desperate person that you need to be talking all the time? They probably get enough emails. If you’re following steps 1–3, you shouldn’t need to talk to the client anyway. Stay out of their hair, just update them when the project is done.
5. Just talk to your team when you need something Stay away from trust-building scenarios like lunchtime conversations, jokes/humour, small-talk and/or banter. Do not engage in questions about your teammates’ spouses, families, weekends, hobbies, vacations and/or recent movies seen. And please do NOT attempt to get to any sort of place where one of your teammates would call you a friend. Better to talk to them only when discussing work assignments.
6. Work on whatever’s in front of you Whatever’s in your inbox is probably the most important. Discard everything else: plans, schedules (schedu-what?), calendars, forget it: if somebody’s asking for something urgently, just do that work (they know best). The less you look into the future, the more you can live in the present. Carpe diem, PM.
7. Procrastinate If you’ve got the nagging feeling there’s something you’re avoiding, good—it’s a dangerous world out there. Nurture that feeling, feed it so it grows like an infant, tend to it gently like a campfire. Gaze into the comforting glow of your Twitter stream, find your friends again in the fields of Facebook, or graze casually in the pasture of your RSS reader. Creating a warm, lazy glow of avoidance to shield you from the unwelcome icy blasts of real life’s blizzards. The door is closed: the wolves are howling outside, but procrastination is safety.
8. Just wing it Projects practically manage themselves these days. There’s no real reason to scribble out next steps or let the team know what happens after next week. Just take it one day at a time, that’s our motto. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
9. Bask in the drama and glory of emergencies Once you’ve let your non-planning, procrastinating ways climb up the walls of your psyche like an overflowing dam, it’s time to savour the dramatic panicky reactions required to handle the flood: just freak out. IM people frantically, interrupt their work, send high-priority emails—nothing is more important than you right now. You’re the star. Plus, now that you’ve manufactured a good old-fashioned emergency, you are quite justified in ignoring everything else for the time being, right in line with steps 5-7.
And there you have it. Nine field-tested techniques to turn you into the world’s worst project manager.
Now you know what NOT to do. What would you add to the list? Have you witnessed (or possibly even committed) some of these rogue acts of PMing? What happened?
And jesting aside, next time we’ll talk trick and tips for surprising and delighting your clients. Stay tuned!