Saturday, November 11, 2006

Week 9 (Building a Program Management Office)

Week 9

This week I got a lot more time to do some physical, document producing work. As I’ve mentioned, one of my responsibilities is to organize the work being done by the teams and to create templates and procedures that can be used in future projects that are like this one. I kind of like that part of the work since it is a form of legacy, something that I can leave behind and something that I have the opportunity to create. I’m somewhat challenged trying to spend the kind of time I would like on these activities. Of course, I recognized that this is only one part of the entire job, and that as much as I would like, I cannot loose myself in that, but rather have to continue with the relationships that will ultimately help make the projects successful.

There in lies my newest problem – people. Here is my lesson this week. No matter how innocent a situation appears, do not ever takes sides in an internal argument. No matter how obvious it is that one side or the other is right or justified or whatever, do not take sides. You can agree with someone, but that had better be because of your knowledge or experience and not because you share the opinion. Here is what I did in a nutshell.

I was in a meeting where one member of the meeting showed their frustration and somewhat directly implied that another member was deficient in their duties. So someone got mad and made sure everyone knew it. Nothing huge - I’ve been cursed at, walked out on, hung up on, screamed at .. you name it, and this was nothing of that level, just a clear statement of displeasure with a bit of “I don’t care who knows it.” After the meeting I was called in to comment. I sad that it was clear someone was frustrated and that the behavior was noticeable and antagonistic – and in my opinion it was. I had pretty much forgotten about it but when I was asked that’s what I said. Well that was when the you-know-what hit the fan.

The person I talked to reported my statements to the manager of the person who spoke out. That person called me and quizzed me, and clearly mentioned my comments to the original offender. Well that person has placed me at the top of their hit list. This person is not the type to forgive and forget, nor are they into “proportional response.” My action has caused an all out war against me where this person is probably expending far more effort trying to harm me than in doing the project. In fact that is the project – wonder if there’s a charter or a schedule? Probably not, since project management is unnecessary to hear this person talk.

So the lesson is, if this ever happens to me again, I will politely say that I do not wish to make any comments in relation to this issue. I will say that my personal opinion is not really needed to help the project succeed. I will not be impolite, but I will be insistent and mute. Once again, I learn that no matter how honestly people ask, they do not want to hear my opinion. I already have a rule that when someone asks me a question like “is there something I can improve” or “what do you think of my management style” I always avoid commenting, deflect the conversation or give some innocuous answer. When someone working for me asks for that kind of feedback, I always tell them to think about it and ask me again in 48 hours. Those who really want to know, ask again. This doesn’t mean I don’t give unsolicited feedback where it is warranted, it is solicited feedback that has invariably gotten me in trouble.

Anyway, the week pretty much went OK, I got to spend a lot of time putting together status reports, project schedules and other useful docs. I hope to get them into use the week after next. I also spent a lot of this week getting ready for the planning sessions next week. This is really my first big opportunity to show some of my skills. I think I can lead at least one of the project teams to a good resolution. The other one, well I’m not so sure, too many chiefs and too much politics and too many divergent goals. I’m sure we will get through all that, but it is so unnecessary and counter-productive. As an outsider, I have the opportunity to observe it and learn a great deal. I hope I’m learning how to put it aside in myself and focus on the job and the people.

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