Just do as you’re told

14f0591a327bee47978df4c3f00cdfa4I’ll start this blog with a disclaimer: I’m really not a bitter guy (Blink). Maybe I am, but just enough to have some balance in my life so I can become a Happy Project Manager, bad vibes are good sometimes. Venting off is good also, as long as you don’t do it in an email. You can vent off in a blog that maybe nobody will read (Blink again). Your PM life won’t ever be perfect or as you thought it would be when you started thinking about being a PM.

I had a manager once, he said “I want thinking people, not lemmings”. Then I recalled that sweet PC game of the 90s, but that’s another story.

I totally agreed with this guy, I like to assume I’m working with intelligent, proactive, creative and inventive people in the team; and I like to think as myself as one of them. But then again, are you supposed to have good ideas or execute them? Maybe you’re just supposed to execute ideas, either they are good or not. Bummer, that will be most of the cases. Unless you are a creative Director of some sorts like Don Draper, which in that case, what the hell are you doing reading this blog?

Bad news, PMs are not supposed to be creative, that’s someone else’s job. You have to execute and make sure others execute regardless of how good the idea is. Maybe sometimes I have very good ideas, but then I realized good ideas are like jokes, there will be people that will simply won’t get them. Why? Well, there’s no such formula to create a good joke, there are many variables at stake. You could have a great joke, but your audience might be a total let down. Then you can have a terrible joke, but your drunk audience will cheer up and laugh out loud. You might be just a really funny guy, and you create jokes on the fly and people will laugh for hours. Maybe you´re trying too much to be funny and you’re not. Maybe you are not funny, you have a terrible joke, but you are the boss and people will laugh loudly, for sure. Do you know any funny PM’s? I don’t.

-Make a proposal, share your ideas, how do you want to do this?

-Yes Sir, I have a very good idea, we could …

-Yes, it’s good, but not that good. In fact, it sucks. Just do as you’re told

You see?  Looks like your joke was not that good, because it really did not satisfy the ultimate purpose, which was to make your sponsor/boss/customer/spouse laugh. I know,  you were very sure it was good and made sense to you, you even told the joke to other people before and some of them even laughed. I’m sure you were laughing to yourself like an idiot and eager to tell the joke, thinking “this is a good joke”. But no, it was not funny. Just do as you’re told.


Unmute your friends


I struggle sometimes with newer generation tropes, such as the use of social networks, I’m sure nobody knows what is the proper etiquette to post, if any. Constant communication is the core activity if you want to be a Happy Project Manager, there’s no such thing as too much communication. I’m sure we all belong to multiple WhatsApp groups and mute them very often, same with our Facebook friends. How about those pompous,  or extremely and unnecessarily long positions everybody display on LinkedIn? Senior Master Specialists. I bet muting/unfollow/ignoring is the most used feature in our phones and computers, because our friends bore us, send useless information, unoriginal jokes stolen from the internet, memes and pictures of their breakfast.

The bad news is that we exercise this ignoring feature too much and then at some point we start ignoring people in real life. Sadly, this may affect our relation with our project team members, partners, bosses, and even customers. That will not make you a Happy Project Manager.

Why do we start ignoring certain people?

After lots of years, I realized that we get tired of the “One-Note” “One Dimensional” characters. In Movies, we can see these guys: The Big Bad, the super good hero, the sidekick, the romantic, the jerkass, the red shirts, the racist tokens etc. They are predictable and they exist only as plot devices. You know every single time how they are going to behave. Now, in Project Management we also have these kind of “One Note” characters and every time they send you an email, call you or talk to you, you will know the outcome. We have the “No-can-do” guy, that keeps telling you things can’t be done, will always come to you with a problem that has no solution. The “Yes-man” will get you in trouble and create scope creep. The “All-is-bad” will give you lukewarm answers all the time. The “I-Told-You” knew what was going to happen, but never raised the issue. The “All-is-Good” guy will never face any problems, you will. The “Mysterious/Alien/Bad Luck” guy will blame everything but him; will blame his computer, the weather, hidden bugs, aliens, the previous guy or the customer.

How can we avoid being ignored? How can you be a Happy Project Manager and listen carefully and be listened?

1. Be sure that every time you communicate, you are sending valuable information. Otherwise people will ignore you.

2. Don’t be a One-Note character, exercise judgement and an objective point of view, if things are bad, find a way to solve them, communicate and learn from the experience. If things are going fine, be cautious.

3. Unmute your friends.


Nobody will read your meeting minutes

shred-icon2Hello. Today, I’m resuming my stranded blogger activity. I will address the debated “meeting minutes” subject today and how they can help us in Happy Project Management. I have worked for many managers, customers, sponsors, project teams and using many flavors of methodologies, but hang on, we’ll talk about PM methodologies in a future blog.

Meeting minutes. PMI says this is push communication. There’s not a consensus about meeting minutes (layout, frequency,etc ) as long as you write them and of course, publish them. Some time ago, I used to generate extensive and detailed minutes until one day my boss called me and asked me “man, are you sure somebody is actually reading your minutes? how much feedback are you getting?” Then I realized that on weekly status meetings, even on large projects with large audiences (18 people) only 5 people replied to my emails making comments on a monthly basis, roughly 7% of total possible feedback. Why? At that particular time I was working for a large organization in an even larger company, most of the technical leaders and key members where handling an average of 8 concurrent projects besides their regular operation. That means that they were already spending at least 16 hours in project meetings. Do yo think they wanted to spend more time reading an extensive and exhausting document? Is not that they didn’t want to, it was a burden on their already over allocated agendas. I reckon I skipped reading them sometimes. Then I went through a couple of old minutes and I opened the can of worms. The most common issue was misspellings, tons of them; then I found no list of attendees, dates, agreements, action items, issues. That means that nobody was reading them, nobody was paying attention.

So, should you send scarcer, briefer, shorter minutes or with less frequency? Is that going to save 30 minutes of your time and make you a happy Project Manager? Should you say “well, nothing happened in the meeting, so, I won’t send a minute, I’ll save some time”.

No way, never. I can assure you that not writing and sending  a minute will come back and haunt you at some point. You must not stop sending them, always send them after every single meeting, call or small agreement you make. If nothing happened in the meeting, be sure to make a minute that says who attended, who did not and that really “nothing” happened on that meeting. I guarantee this will save your ass and make you a Happy Project Manager. When somebody comes back, yell at you and complain, you will be able to tell them: “Did you read the minute? You should have…” 

Nobody will read your meeting minutes, but be sure to send them.