What everyone needs to know about project management

Managing project managers

A guide for managers who want to help.

Simple Project Management deepens the conversations with between the Manager and the Project Manager. Less time is spend on the superficial; more is spend on the important. Rather than the focus being on follow up ("Did you follow the procedure?" "Did you fill out the forms or templates?"), the focus shifts to ways to increase effectiveness.

Let's take the specific example of "Defining Project Scope" to contrast the power of this shared knowledge approach with the unfortunately too common procedures and forms approach.

Limitations of relying on procedures and forms.

The Manager (M) typically asks one or more of these questions to follow up with the Project Manager (PM):

  • M: Have you followed the scope procedure?
  • M: Have you filled in the scope form?
  • M: Have you filled in the scope template?
  • M: Have you defined the scope in writing?
Possible answers and responses:
  • PM: Yes.
  • PM: No.
  • PM: Sort of...
Then the manager will say:
  • M: Good.
  • M: You need to do it.
  • M: Then go back and finish it correctly.

In each case the emphasis is on following the procedure or following the right steps. But at what level did that help the Project Manager? Because of the structure of the conversation, the Manager has communicated that the procedure or the template is more important than the scope that it is supposed to produce. Worse, none of this discussion about compliance to the procedures addresses the quality or effectiveness of the scope that is produced.

Benefits of relying on Simple Project Management.

If Manager and Project Manager both share the common knowledge described in Simple Project Management, the Manager has a much more expressive pallet of questions that can be asked. (See the sample chapter on Scope.)

Here are some possible paths the conversation might take:

  • M: Have you defined the scope?
  • PM: Yes.
  • M: Is it ready for people to rely on it?
  • PM: Yes.
  • M: Have you prepared the team to transition to a relied on scope?
  • PM: I've talked to the customer about it, but I haven't talked to the rest of the team yet.
  • M: What do you think is the best way to do that?
  • M: Have you defined the scope?
  • PM: Mostly.
  • M: Is it to the point where people can begin to rely on it?
  • PM: Not all of it.
  • M: Which parts can't be relied on yet?

Notice how Simple Project Management has moved the discussion of scope from an one-level question to a deeper discussion where the Manager can investigate the key points on which the success of the project turns. The procedures, forms, and templates are not neglected; they are returned to their proper place as means to the desired end.

How to gain these benefits?