Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Haunting Truth of Project Management

Sometimes managing a project can become downright scary. There are times when it seems like all the players have taken on these masks and have just randomly re-mixed themselves - playing the part of others.

If you've been in software development for any amount of time, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. There's a certain point in the development process (normally between 3/4 and 9/10 finished) when people do or say things that just don't match up with what was agreed upon or stated clearly in other meetings.

It's like - they have the face and voice of Tom, but the things they're saying just don't make any sense. They voice objections for issues long resolved or introduce new requirements at the 11th hour. It's like they weren't even in the room when the issues/requirements were agreed upon.

I keep waiting for them to say "Trick or Treat!" or "April Fool's Day!" or something.

But they don't.

They're serious.

Really.

I can understand the typical CYA (Cover Your Ass) moves that inevitably crop up as a project comes closer to completion - but there are limits. No one wants to take blame (only credit!) and not only that they start treating the project like a Mission Impossible agent who's fallen into enemy hands: "In the case you're caught or captured we will disavow any knowledge of you or your mission..."

It's like someone has completely deleted the file named "The Project We've Been Working On For Months" from their hard drive. Needless to say this can cause some "friction" between the developers and the other stakeholders in the project.

This goes beyond the traditional "...it just doesn't work.." from the users and the developers claiming "...it does too work...". I've found that it's a lack of communication. Next time I run into this situation - I'm going to try this:
  1. Offer them a piece of candy - because surly some alien being is just pretending to be them - OR if that fails;

  2. Offer them a glimpse at the 300+ pages of notes and emails (yes, it's good to print them out and save them!) and see if that refreshes their memory - OR if that fails;

  3. Grab their ears and try to force the damn mask off

Feel free to submit your own tips...

1 comment:

Steve said...

Wow, this sounds so familiar... It is unfortunately true that anyone working with software developers knows that it runs both ways. Project management is all about communication and managing expectations, and it typically gets a bit messy with complex undertakings like software development. Software developers and business people seem to be from different planets sometimes. However, I believe Bob is a true pro on both sides of this one.

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