Thursday, September 21, 2017

Surviving as a New Project Manager - managing upwards

Managing upward relationships and expectations

The manager or senior stakeholder to whom you report have some expectations regarding how you manage the relationship you have with them. However hey may not necessarily have made each of these expectations explicit  to you as the project manager.... But never-the-less your performance will be judged partly by whether the relationship needs are met - together of course with how well you eventually deliver on project outcomes. 

There are three main expectations -
  1. They want to be kept informed. How much communication and the level of detail they require in the reporting you do with them should be established up-front. Whether it is weekly, fortnightly or milestone-driven reporting depends upon their needs - and to some extent, the level of trust they might have in you. It's likely, because you are a new project  manager then they will want more regular reporting from you. They definitely don't want to be blind-sighted if there are any issues that arise - so don't try and hide if there's anything that has emerged that can risk impacting on meeting project outcomes. Naturally, always ensure you are very well-prepared for any meetings you have and as far as possible, keep them brief.
  2. Don't dump problems on them. If problems arise, don't just bring them to your senior manager - also bring the suggestions and recommendations for dealing with any problems. Of course there are sometimes organisational barriers that are encountered during a project that perhaps require a higher level of authority to resolve. However in bringing these to your manager you need to describe the issue, the risk it presents, why you are unable to deal with it yourself - and what approval you are asking of your manager. In other words, it's not requiring much further thought or analysis by your manager.
  3. You recognise when to say say no. It's not uncommon for senior stakeholders or your manager to attempt to add further dimensions to the scope of your project. They would like to get a bit more work completed, of course with you still using the same resources (time, people, budgets). It's up to you to protect your team and yourself from unrealistic expectations. If your manager wants it delivered in a shorter timeline, then you need to negotiate for extra resources - whether this means another team-member or some extra funds to outsource some of the coding requirement for example. But the main point here is that you don't agree to something that you end up failing to deliver. Even though your manager might not be happy when you push back on him or her seeking to add something to the scope of the project - it's better in the long run to risk some displeasure at this stage compared to much greater dissatisfaction later because you have failed to deliver. When you fail to deliver on your agreements, you lose trust. Period. So don't be tempted to agree to something you feel is unrealistic in the interests of appeasement or avoiding conflict. Face up to the issue.
Managing relationships and expectations is all an essential part of project management. Yes these will present some challenges to you at times. But in learning how to deal effectively with more senior people, your influencing and negotiating skills will certainly improve and develop through the experience.

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