Project managers often face tough times when they need to pull the strings that may make others uncomfortable. Those mainly include conducting project reviews for balancing the triple constraints, facilitating the reviews of the deliverables for quality or compliance, and providing constructive criticism to the team members for corrective or preventive actions.
Everyone likes to hear or deliver good news, however good project managers are expected to be the experts at relaying when things don’t go as planned, typically coupled with a pro-active solution.
The following are the most successful approaches good project managers often practice.
Project Reviews: The main objective of the project reviews is to validate where the project should be vs. where it really is in meeting the cost, schedule and scope objectives while making sure the quality and customer satisfaction are not overlooked. The project managers should drive the reviews (not driven by them). They must develop a plan to overcome the gaps encountered by the team. While the ownership is greatly appreciated, project managers should not be emotionally tied to the initiatives to the extent it can impact their judgments in assessing and fixing these gaps.
Deliverables’ Reviews: Bob Lambert presented a very good case for in-process inspection of deliverables in his recent article, “Double test efficiency and build app dev culture at no charge.” A project manager’s primary role here is to assure effectiveness, seriousness and efficiency in these reviews. The project managers should also provide or secure the necessary resources that make these inspections possible, potent and value driven. The most important aspect here is to treat the deliverable as the project assets and the review comments may not be used as ammunition against the creators of the deliverables. The primary focus should remain on making team members’ deliverables high quality project assets.
Constructive Criticism: Tony Schwartz’s article, “There's No Such Thing as Constructive Criticism,” says it all when it comes to providing feedback on individual performance. Often times these “constructive criticisms” actually challenges the individual’s sense of value. These abrasive encounters may cause more damage than good for the person (as well as the project) in the short-term or long-term, especially when they are tied to the individual performance/compensation evaluation. Most successful and matured project managers identify these areas for improvement in their team members, come up with strategies on actions the individual need to take and focus on enabling those actions to happen. I find that such managers are most appreciated by their team members and are able to deliver great results.
In summary, the focus of project managers should be on identifying and eliminating the obstacles to the success of the projects using potent reviews and developing performing teams. These few tips can greatly help in making project management a more respected discipline by others.