The Lazy Project Manager or Where Do I Fit In

I picked up this book by accident, looking through the top free Kindle books.  Of course, a project management book that has “lazy” in its title is bound to catch one’s attention.

If you’re looking for an advice on how to screw the pooch and be an effective project manager at the same time, this book is not going to teach you anything.  What it will teach you though is how to stop being one of those project managers who are always busy and yet accomplish little.  Instead, follow the 80-20 rule, focus your attention on what is really important and learn how to use resources available to you.

It is a hard lesson to learn.  If you’re used to being the doer, relying on yourself and delivering results, habit of doing the work yourself is a hard one to break.  To this day I have to remind myself to delegate.  Instead of piling yet another project on my plate (Oh, I can take a look at it tonight), let someone else take care of it.  It will get done and will free you up for other things.

The book is a quick and entertaining read.  Well worth its Kindle price of a whole big ZERO.

What caught my attention is this chart.

Now, I know that I am lazy.  And a few people have told me that they thought I was smart.  All of that makes me wonder.  If I believe the chart and if I believe those people are right, then…  I know how to be successful through efficient use of resources.  Just have to keep reminding myself that I’m lazy enough and I’m smart enough to be successful and to delegate.

And what about you?  Which quadrant do you fit in?

 

Reminded of some simple truths

It is always easier to find negatives than positives. It is easier to find something bad to say than something good. People like compliments, focus on the positives and find a way to point them out. This is really hard. Specially in IT. All our training — all the years in school and on the job — we’re taught to look for problems, to focus on them, to fix them. We take the good things for granted, they are there, they don’t need fixing. It’s the bad that we’re interested in. But when it comes to dealing with people, that’s not the best approach.

As a project manager, as a manager, as a person, look for ways to compliment people around you: members of your team, your coworkers. They will like you better. Or they will be afraid to disappoint you and not live up to all the high praise and compliments you have bestowed on them

As a project manager working with your customers, get them to concentrate on the positives. What are the 100 good things that they liked about the project? It will make the 3 things that went wrong seem not so important.

Tell them what you are planning to do

A client calls you, the consultant, with a problem: something is not working. You, obviously wanting to help, eagerly jump into action and start working on the issue. You work your precious little behind off, it takes you an entire day or more, and eventually you do figure it out. Triumphant you call the client back to report that the problem has been solved: the issue identified, the cause pinpointed; a workaround has been developed, tested and implemented. Your client is happy, they thank you for your quick attention. You hang up the phone with a feeling of a job well done and at the end of the week you bill the client for the 8 or 12 or more hours that you spent solving the problem. End of the story? Not likely…

2 weeks later your, this time irate, client calls you to demand an explanation for the invoice that they just received, “Why did you bill me for 12 hours 2 weeks ago?” “Alzheimer’s”, you chuckle and remind the client of the fix you put in per their request to address the issue from 2 weeks ago. “If I knew it was going to take 12 hours, I wouldn’t have you do it. I could’ve just <fill in the blanks>”, responds the client. The conversation is over, the client pays but they are not happy, you think you’re being nickel and dimed and you are also not happy.

If this story sounds even vaguely familiar, then you, as many of us in the consulting world, had made a mistake of not properly managing client’s expectations. It is easy to assume that your client is wise, that he or she clearly understands the problem and trusts you as a seasoned professional to do what’s right. However, the reality is likely to be a complete opposite of your assumptions. Your client may be wise, but in this case, he simply had a pain that he couldn’t resolve on his own, he didn’t know where to turn, so he called you.

Your client did trust as you as a professional to do what’s right, the problem is that you and him never agreed on what “do what’s right” really means. To you, doing the right thing meant solving the client’s problem. To him, it meant a quick 20-minute fix or he would’ve just <fill in the blanks>. (The blanks may be anything from ignoring the problem to deleting the problem record(s) and starting over, etc. Any of these solutions would’ve cost the client less than 12 hours of your time.)

No matter how big or small of a project you’re doing for your client, whether it is an 8-hours quick enhancement or a 6-months project, it is important to define the scope of the project up front. Make sure that you and your client are on the same page. Align the client’s expectations with what you’re proposing to do and with what you can deliver within a given budget/time frame. Make sure that you’re not embarking on a 6-months project, where the client wanted an 8-hours fix.