WILY: Five Things Good PMs Never Say

In this week's brief but valuable episode of the Colocation Podcast, I discuss the five things that good PMs rarely say:

1.  "Resources" (When talking about people).  As I mentioned in an earlier episode, referring to people as resources is one of my pet peeves.  But, it's also an example of poor project management and leadership.  People are more than tools to be used up in furtherance of project goals.  When I think of a resource, I think of the roller covers I used to paint my living room last month.  An "available means" as Miriam-Webster defines the term.  A resource is something you use to further your objective, until it is used up - in the case of the roller covers, dried, crusty, and discarded.  People are individuals with purposes and abilities beyond today's activity.  Treat them like resources, and you'll deserve when they give nothing more than the task requires.

2.  "That's not my job."  The truth is, almost anything can be the PMs job.    In addition to core responsibilities like controlling the scope, schedule, and budget of a project, the PM is also an extra set of hands to be put to work wherever needed.  It's impossible to lead through influence without doing it by example.  Whether it's testing, training, or admin work, the PM should be available to do it all whenever it needs done.  As part of some of my projects I've done data entry, payment processing, printed screenshots, made copies, you name it.

3.  "No."  In addition to being contrary to at least four, if not all, of the must-have skills for PMs, project managers are seldom in a position to issue a hard stop.  Most of the times that you'll be tempted to say no are when a sponsor or stakeholder are asking for a mid-stream change to scope.  While the request may not be best for the project, it's probably also not the hill you are willing to die on either.  The more appropriate response, identified by people a lot smarter than I is "yes, and."  "Yes, Mrs. Sponsor, we can rewrite the code and add additional data points to the database and it will require 400 additional programmer hours and add $50,000 to the budget.  Plus, there will be extra time for testing and copying to production. Should we do a full analysis in change control?" Hearing "no" feels personal and puts you as PM way over your skis.  "Yes and" sounds like I want to help and here's the impact to the goal we're trying to accomplish.  

4.  "That should be easy."  Those can be famous last words when spoken off the cuff.  Assuming this is also related to a change request, how do you know it should be easy?  Have you thought of all of the potential impacts and run it past the project team?  If you have not, then you very well may have just written a check that you cannot cover.  You've set the expectation that the change can be made with little or no impact to the rest of the project. You may get away with it a couple of times, especially in an area where you have some expertise or technical proficiency, but say it too often and you'll eventually hear a "Yes, and" when you take one of your easy changes to the project team.

5.  "I".  I just saw a tweet the other day from Projectmanager.com (@project tips) with a quote attributed to Andrew Glasow that read "A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit."  That reminded me of one of my all-time favorites, and one that I try to live by, from football coach Bear Bryant "If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you."  The last sentence can sound a little manipulative, but the quote gets straight to one of the core responsibilities of a project manager:  to clear obstacles.  In this case, the obstacle is fear.  Project teams can never do their best when they are afraid.  Whether it's fear of someone stealing the credit or saddling them with the blame, fear will keep a team from innovating and stretching for the best result possible.

There are definitely more things that good PMs, or any leader, rarely say but these are the five that sound to me like a knife scraping across a dinner plate.  What do you think?  Drop me a note at https://www.davidhersher.com/contact, emaill colocation@davidhersher.com, or Tweet at me at @colocationshow with the phrases that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

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