Project managers are essential to system functioning, but as I described before, some are just plain lazy! Take a look at the post to get an idea of some problems that arise, but here, I want to discuss some strategies to deal with them.
- They don’t respond to requests for information. One thing I have learned through my life is that people will communicate only as much as they deem necessary to maintain whatever level they want to have with you. I mean, if they don’t want to talk to you and converse, get over it! You can’t force something that won’t happen, so don’t push for a friendly relationship that is mutually beneficial. If the PM is unconcerned with that email you sent out yesterday, and avoiding the telephone call you made earlier today, the time has come for you to walk over and ask your question in person. They can’t push you out effectively when you’re standing there staring at them. (One caveat to this, of course, is ensuring that they ACTUALLY are ignoring you and not merely too busy to respond)
- They come to meetings noticeably unprepared. The boy scout motto of being prepared is ignored by many people including those lazy PM’s who can’t seem to understand that meetings have one purpose: to get things done. To “help” them out, a couple days before the meeting, contact them (actually speak to them, no voice mails or emails) and ask what they plan to have accomplished at this week’s meeting. You likely won’t get an answer to this request on the phone, so leave them with some things YOU expect to have discussed. Follow up with an email to the group asking for their input on what needs to get decided during the meeting, and on the day of, ask the PM for an agenda of the items that need to be discussed that day. If they don’t provide one in time for the meeting, print out the emails your team has thrown around and have them ready. If the PM won’t take charge of the meeting, the time has come for you to do so. Now, at least you’ve given everyone a day or two chance to add items and you can begin with your own concerns, and move on to those of everyone else.
- They behave reactively, rather than proactively. This personality trait is one that takes time to overcome, and effort. First step here is to be proactive yourself. If you push them to think of things before they want to, it will likely get done before they would have accomplished it. I don’t mean to inundate their inbox with emails or harass them with phone calls, but rather, at the beginning of the day, contact them and discuss the points you need to be discussed. This will force their brain to align itself to yours for at least the moment. If you ask for resolutions to issues, discuss with them how long it will take, and call them shortly before the due-date. If you wait until the due-date is reached, you’re pushing back the procrastination beyond YOUR acceptable limit.
- They are unresponsive unless the boss asks or you go talk in person. My overarching point in this area is that communication is up to YOU. If they don’t reply until you go talk in person, perhaps you need to speak to them in person every time you need to talk. Again, they can’t ignore you when you’re standing in front of them, so that’s what is needed. If there is a pattern of unresponsiveness, you may need to move on to their boss to find out a more effective way of keeping them accountable. That could mean emailing their boss first, and having the boss ask them directly to ensure that communications are responded to.
The long and short of it is that when people aren’t responding to you, or doing their job correctly and effectively, there is a problem with the team, and that problem needs to be resolved. These are some strategies to employ when you’re first seeing problems, or when you feel that the problems can be resolved without much escalation. My next post will discuss what to do when these simple strategies don’t work.