As a project manager you are laser focused on scope, time and budget. You wake up each day and follow your plan. You recognize that managing these three pillars will lead to successfully managing and delivering the project, and consume all of your time and efforts along the way – right?
Well, there is a 4th leg to ensuring your success and that is managing the “boss”. The “boss” can be any, or most of the following, the Executive Sponsor(s), other key project stakeholders, and let’s not forget the project manager’s organizational boss who may, or not be, part of the project.
Any of the following resonate?
- At the kick-off meeting, everyone, with enthusiasm says, “We need to be focused on delivering the scope, being on time and stay within budget.” Right?
- What happens when these bosses become focused on the methodology, be it Waterfall or Agile, the document formats (Word, Excel, PDF, online, paper, etc.) and other (tangentially) related details instead of, or in addition to scope, time and budget?
- Or, what about when the boss questions why the project is looking at and/or including an analysis of processes? You’ve heard this, “Can’t we just..?”
Are you frustrated by attending to these boss idiosyncrasies? If so, you are feeling stressed and challenged. You want to be focused on scope, time, budget and get the project done. Right?
Above cartoon is credited to Tom Fishburne’s great work.
There are many, many well-written approaches on “managing up”, ways to be a good employee, how to please your boss and making your boss look good. From that large volume, here is a short list (4 areas) to focus on and managing (the boss) beyond scope, time and budget.
- Experience. Put your experience to work. You know your boss, and/or you are aware of the personalities and styles of other bosses who might need a little more “support”. Leverage this knowledge and plan for it – actually build time into your schedule to rewind, review and consider what they are asking for. Need a primer on leadership styles, start with this overview.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Right in the beginning of the project, or as soon as “beyond scope, time, budget” behaviors, or situations arise, schedule time with the boss and ask the following questions, “What do you expect from me and the project team? What will be success for the project?” They will say scope, time, budget, so you will need to press and drill into these responses to truly know. Write these responses down and send to them confirming your understanding. And, once you have had the initial meeting and any subsequent meetings, you go back to the beginning of this paragraph and you start again.
- Focus. At the end of the day (project), the care-and-feeding of bosses is secondary to delivering on the project’s scope, time and budget. Keeping a value-based, high-quality focus on these pillars will help on those days when you hear about the margins of a report requiring modification. These pillars are the true priorities.
- Look in the mirror. Be your own critic before someone else does. It is easier to look in the mirror and give yourself a “get it right” talk instead of being called to an office for an unexpected “meeting”.
Finally, here is a good reference from Project Times.