039 – Burning Questions: A Trick or treat bag of listener mail
As we gorge on our kid’s leftover Halloween candy, we answer a number of Listener questions left on our Facebook and Linkedin pages.
- What are some good ways to describe PM-ish duties on a resume/CV?
- What are some tips on holding someone accountable?
- How do you create a timeline for a project with a new technology you don’t know about?
- When and how do you call out a team member who is not doing their job?
- What are some tips on working with an external IT vendor PM?
- And more!
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What are some good ways to describe project manager “duties” on a resume or bio? – from Jennifer [4:26]
It’s always important to take metrics of the things that you’ve done. If you have managed a project with a budget of $250M, impacted 30000 points of sale units, and supported a team of 75, that’s wildly different than saying you managed a project in an office of four people and deployed a printer.
Finding a way to associate metrics or something you can measure against what you’ve delivered is a really great way to showcase the scope and breadth of the work you did.
This doesn’t mean you should be discouraged if you haven’t worked on big projects. The bottom line is for you to focus on what you have done in the past or present that is like project management, i.e. managing budget, driving team consensus towards a goal, negotiating or highlighting the leadership skills that you have. Talking about these things will help you set your foot on the door for that interview and discuss how you will handle a task or a problem as a project manager.
It’s also best for you to be specific in explaining the responsibility you played in a project. And be honest when describing your role. Remember being part of a $50M dollar project doesn’t mean you lead it. What
you can do is leverage your experience on this project in handling a PM role. You can also highlight your wins even the small ones and relate the value or impact it made to the project.
How can an introvert PM establish influence without authority over his project team? – Alessandro [9:24]
It is a journey and it’s often painful and difficult but it’s worth it. Learning the soft skills, making mistakes, and getting back up is part of the process.
Being introvert doesn’t necessarily hinder you, because not all relationships have to be friendly. Influencing without authority also comes from continuing to show up and showing folks that you’ll be consistent. It’s all about building trust; if you commit to a task, you should deliver.
Forcing yourself to talk to people and ask questions will also help you get an interaction going, build a relationship, and influence people.
What are some tips on holding someone accountable? – Victoria [13:05]
Create something to hold them accountable to. Whenever you’re creating your schedule, or whenever you’re working on action items or deliverables, always get a commitment from that team member on when they will provide that back to you. You can ask:
● When are you going to get this done?
● How confident are you in getting this done on the date you gave?
● Can you commit in getting this to me on this date and time you gave?
Accountability also has two phases. Phase 1, accountability to what you’re committing to, and Phase 2, validating if it was in fact committed to. When you ask someone “to commit”, you are using a very different verbage than those evoked from “Can you do this?” of “Can you get this done,” and it produces a very different effect.
It’s also important for you to explain what they need to do, how they need to do it, and what the consequences are if they don’t deliver. It’s difficult to hold someone accountable if these things are isolated to your head.
We highly suggest that you check our Episode on RAID Log. In here, you’ll see how a PM documents everything that a team member is committing to.
When and how should you call out a stakeholder (or assigned resource) for not doing their job, and/or being borderline incompetent? (Escalation is not an option.) Cesar [18:52]
“The issue is that what you suggest has been done. They have been given double the time requested. They have been given more details to remove any assumptions, and help narrow the work to be done. Even crucial conversations have been had. They have been moving/working, don’t get me wrong… yet they still ‘miss’ and ‘forget’ open issues that cost the company because they end up having to give days worth of remote assistance due to it being ‘our fault'” -Cesar
We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t, you will eventually. There’s always a resource that will insist they won’t be able to deliver.
It sounds like this person is blaming you, and you have done a lot to try to set this person up for success. Or it’s also possible that the customer was not happy with what this resource delivered.
If you fall on the scenario one, our advice is for you to clearly communicate to this person how you tried to set them up for success, and make sure that this is documented. Remember that it’s vital for you to keep a
record of all actions done on your project, especially the ones causing the problems and delays. This is for you to easily track the gap and point out the cause of the issue, because at one point somebody will question what happened. If you miss logging what happened in your issue log, the blame will point to you. Since you cannot escalate, documentation is going to be your only weapon here. You can log that a request was made. but the request was not adhered to. Your overall project can have a risk if a task is not delivered on time, and when you document, you can make that public so everyone is aware of it.
Project timelines … Sounds easy BUT … How do you create one when you’re implementing a new technology? What kind of questions do you ask to ensure you’ve captured tasks and durations? – Magdalena [24:35]
It’s never easy, but you have to do the best with what you’ve got. If you have a new technology, especially if you’re leveraging an external partner, take the smartest/most experienced members that you have, pull them into a room, and work with them to create the project schedule. Ask hundreds of questions- the main point is you need to have a conversation with the subject matter experts, because the worst thing you can do is develop a timeline in isolation. You have to lean on the experts’ experience for similar engagements or similar technology, or someone who had an experience
implementing the same technology, and ask tons of questions for you to gain additional knowledge of the project.
Reach out to your network, because nothing can be more helpful in understanding how crappy it can go than somebody who’s been through it.
It’s also important for you to ask the right questions, like the pre-requirements for a task, or what you need to have in order to be able to work on the task. In most cases, it’s not really the duration that you
have to know, but the prereqs that are required to get the project done.
My company is always in reaction mode. Things have to be done yesterday, and stakeholders find it a waste of time to break things down and gather good requirements. How do you allow the process down to allow that?- Magdalena [30:49]
“For example, I tried to implement a new technology that everyone wants asap. I tried going through the phases and gathering good requirements. Stakeholders put the brakes on and wanted to see the team start work
same day.” -Magdalena
Episode 7 – How to respond to “stupid” executive asks is a great reference for this question. Executive asks can sometimes be unrealistic and/or porrly though through. You need to find a way to communicate to your stakeholders that the work is starting, find a balance between work starting and gathering the requirements. It’s best to use “tech requirements” when asking for the requirements, so that the executives to feel you know what you’re talking about and see you as a collaborative person. Using their words can help you build the trust bricks, and get them on your side. The appetizer for Saying No By Saying Yes can also give you a great insight on
how you can effectively communicate your disagreement while getting a desired answer at the same time.
How do you manage projects and deliverables with an external IT vendor? Especially when you don’t have prior IT knowledge or experience. – Victoria [38:54]
You don’t really need to know the IT that well. What you need to understand is the Statement of Work, because the supplier should live and die by the SOW. And because the vendor lives and dies by the SOW, change management is very important for them. So if you need to change the SOW or the deliverables, be aware that you need to follow the change management process, because your vendors have responsibilities on their side too.
Project Documentation: Is it common to have all of it done on every project? I loved the RAID Log episode and would love to hear more in-depth discussions about other PM Documentation. – Ellie (from Australia!) [42:00]
Not necessarily, because it’s going to be too many documentations. If the organization doesn’t need to go through the change management process because they have their own, then focus your energy on other things where you need to be successful.
PMs are not the ones creating the documentation, but they can help in completing it. You may reach out to your SMEs to review the document so they can update it before you ask for a signature from your stakeholder.
As a project manager, you don’t always need to carry the whole load on your shoulder. As a leader, you need to learn how to delegate and be scaleable. If you can get someone to do something who can do it 80% aswell as you, then you should let that person do it.
Establishing a PMO, preferably in a start-up? [46:49]
It is really hard to put a strong process in place at a start-up, and you may want to ask yourself why you want to set up that PMO. It might be more practical and ideal for you to identify what the problem is, and tackle it with laser-focus. You need to choose your battles, and work on the tasks that will give you the most value.