Blog posts tagged in Project Manager

Working in IT industry as a Project Manager, I do come across my team members praising or complaining about Project Managers as how they have made their easy or hell in the project. Well mostly out of these are the ones who rather complain and seldom do I hear praises for the Project Managers. So is it really that grave of a situation and we can assume that all Project Managers are disciple of Hitler?


Well not so, I think there are 3 categories of PM – Good, Bad and Ugly. They as the name confers may not be like that in reality and it is the perception of the team members against the Project Manager. I know you must be getting confused here, so let’s evaluate each of these characteristics:


1. Good Project Manager – This is one, whom we will associate from the eyes of team members as the one who plans well, approves leaves of teams, takes pain to deliver projects, helpful and sensitive. These characteristics may be helpful in terms of employee satisfaction but they may not be in the eyes of Employer as for them you are too friendly with team and this friendliness removes the fear factor amongst them. With this token- Is Good project manager indeed a bad one, not with the above example. A good project manager is indeed a person who is friendly with the team but not too friendly such that people fear him not and start believing in laissez-faire. A good PM does exemplary work, motivates team/spirit, mitigates risks and issues, meets client expectation and other things that keep project status in Green but what he also does is take corrective actions if things are going haywire, manage people and see their timings in office, have a way to escalate and report if any team member is under-performing or is not adhering to company policies. With doing this what team members have always at the back of their mind is that there is a PM who can heed to their problems/issues at hand but he is also there with a Vulcan eyes who can catch them if they are wrong footed.


2. Bad Project Manager – Now this is the biggest drainer in an organization and this is what one should be careful about. A Bad PM is the one who has limited functional/technical knowledge and even then manages a team of IT developers. This PM will never be able to comprehend the daily nuances of software development. Since he lacks this he will also not be able to identify beforehand the risks and plan to mitigate them. He also will be helpless in tackling with the issues when they crop in the project and will run from pillar to post for resolving them, in doing so he will consume lot of resources precious time and this will again affect the project timelines which is already struggling with delay due to existing issue. This PM is definitely not liked by the resources as he will have characteristics of micro-managing team, finding faults, scapegoating, building artificial pressure, non-cognitive thinking. These bad PM do what the saying says that one dirty fish can contaminate a pond. So would these PM be shunned right away, well not hastily, everyone should be provided an opportunity to improve. I have seen that most of the time Bad managers also have some reasons to become bad such as they are not in the righteous place/position/team, they lack training, they are master less i.e., lack checks and balances, are hideous where they tend to hide their incapability by means of being harsh and rude. So I will say that these people if they tend to improve can go on the path to become a Good PM if not then dismissal is an option.


3. Ugly Project Manager – Now this is a PM who has a tendency of becoming a bête noire of his subordinates. This PM becomes ugly following his actions that make a dreadful predator who is always on the lookout. This PM believes in reprimanding and does follow a regimen of fear tactics. This he does in order to make the team deliver to their full potential without mistake and many a times they even succeed. They may not be helpful always and before some team member approaches them for help they make sure that they have tried it twice or thrice as if not they can face the fury. These PM give orders which can be like a decree for the team members and they tend to follow it religiously. So this PM may be ugly for the team but for the organization he proves to be helpful as his team is the least problem creator. So then if that’s the case can we say that Ugly PM is indeed the best PM, well not so, see when you are Ugly/fearsome PM then team don’t tend to question your judgments or decisions which sometime becomes detrimental to the project as a unanimous decision is the best decision. With the constant fear in which the team works there are high chances that there will be quite of higher rate of exits from the team as all members may not be accustomed to this kind of management. Moreover since this PM is dreaded, they tend to make very less friends in the organization hence when they need any kind of help there will always be few givers.


So to encapsulate I would say that a PM should have a mix of Good and Ugly PM traits in them. This good-ugly mix can prove to be beneficial for everyone- the team, the project and the organization. The key is the PM should know about his trait periodically and this could be done by peer review and 360 degree evaluation.

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Working as a Project Manager and having more than a decade of experience working in the IT industry, I feel that following are the key points that helps in quick delivery of software development product:


1. PM identifies the risks at the right moment, risks are defined as something that has not happened yet but is bound to happen if corrective actions are not taken. Identifying risk timely provides PM to make plans for corrective action so that they can either avoid the risk completely or mitigate its effect to some extent. For e.g., if a project has a team of 3 developers and a developer resigns during the middle of the project. This tends to be the biggest risk that can affect the project owing to the size of the team. Now PM’s job should be to proactively work with the HR to find the replacement in time so that the KT of the project can be done in time and there is minimal impact on the project.


2. PM is dexterous in issue resolution. Issues are defined as incidents that have occurred and now need to be fixed. Issue could be vivid like related with coding, people, skills etc., and when they crop up an experienced PM has to become active instead of reactive. They need to plan out the QAt management and help the team to resolve the issue first rather than doing fault finding and cornering people. I am not saying that fault finding should be completely omitted, but it’s just that it can come later once the issue is resolved. For e.g. A developer forgets to check in his code in subversion over a period of time and one fine day someone else discovers this shortcoming. Now this is a major issue as this involves the code base on which developer has been working for long and this is not updated/stored safely in SVN. Once this goes to repository that can impact other developers’ work. Now instead of blasting the developer, PM should first make sure that all the code files are checked in successfully in SVN and the dependencies are resolved to make sure application is working. PM should also make sure that the SVN check-in is happening in correct way and to tackle any issue encountered. Reprimanding the developer action will come later when this issue is resolved, then with the developer root cause should be found in which it could be that developer understanding in SVN check in is less and he/she needs guidance. It could also be the case that the developer completely missed it, in this case a process should be brought in place where PM or TL periodically check if check-ins are happening.


3. PM does exemplary work and empowers the team. By empowering team he make sure that every team member is committed and motivated for their work, this way they make sure that redundancy in the team is maintained say if in a situation where a team person resigns. For e.g., there are certain tough tasks in a project that only TL is currently doing, PM should make effort to allow junior resources also to learn with TL the difficult tasks as this will enable them to learn things and eventually help them to grow in the company. This also empowers the overall team and makes task delegation easier.


4. People Manager – Managing the team well wherein he paves a listening ear to the team and their personal or work related issues if any. Maybe not every time PM can help but it gives a mental satisfaction to the team members that there is someone to listen to their grievances and they can focus on their work.


5. PM manages the change requests and enhancements such that they get to run with him. These activities are then planned and scheduled such that they do not affect a planned release. For e.g. in a project running on fixed cost and fixed time, and client is asking for a new or improved functionality. Say this effort is for additional 5 days so this need to be accounted for, client need to be made aware of this, have his approval on this change request and then modify the plan and pricing of the project accordingly.


6. Task Management and Assignment – PM manages the project in such a way that the most difficult of tasks in a project are given to more senior resource. If this is given to a lesser experience resource then this will delay not only the timeline of this task but will eventually drag the project. Also if a task requires more research than 1 person then in such cases more resources can be added to work on same task which is further divided in sub-tasks. This is done to keep up with the on time delivery of the project. For e.g. In one of my project in which a team of 3 resources were working, I came across a new feature of integrating a third party device. This task was assigned to the team lead as this was a new thing that we were doing and needed good experienced person to be engaged.


7. Short term staffing for specialized jobs – In a project there are sometimes situation where the team hits the wall, this is when there is something related with technology that needs to be done and team has zero experience on this. So in situation like these there need to be specialized people that need to be engaged, a good PM senses this during the course of the project and raises the request timely for a short term staffing of the resource on need basis in the project. It is also important that the knowledge acquired by this short term staffing is then transferred and retained to the original team as well, so that it can be handled in future. In one of the project, there was a requirement to create various environments like Dev, QA and Production in AWS, now since the dev team was not dexterous in installing these instances, I have to engage a senior Architect/DBA for this task on need basis who actually did created these instances with ease for the project.


8. Firefighting – There are situations when while developing an issue crops up, this can be known or unknown issue, in such instances the PM has to bring the team in firefighting mode wherein the team works much harder and longer to douse the issue at hand. This task is overseen by the PM himself by working in line with the team so that they are uplifted and motivated in working extra hours in such grim situations. So, PM has to be flexible in getting more out of the time at times while offering them compensatory offs at other times.


So, the PM’s role is very critical in getting a project delivered on time. He has to be on his toes and at best of his judgement to not only understand current situation but also to gauge what may happen in near future and be prepared to take decisions based on that to effectively manage the project delivery.

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