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Friday, April 28, 2006

What should a PM do when the project is late?

So, let us say that you are the project manager for a project. The delivery date is in a weeks time and you know pretty well that you will not make the date. What do you do? Think about this for a while.

Here is what should be done
  1. Inform the client that you will not be able to make the delivery date and reschedule it for later.
  2. Remove any roadblocks that are slowing down the development team (this should be done always, not just when the team is behind schedule).

Sounds pretty simple? Yet, most PMs don't do this. Why? Because owning up to the client is hard. It's a lot easier to imagine that some miracle is going to occur and the team will make the date. But of course, what will happen is that the team won't make the date and you'll have to inform the client anyway - on the day of the delivery.

PMs also worry a lot about meeting the schedule, but they don't write code, so they cannot change the team progress in any way. But they can help the team speed up. How? Remove roadblocks that affect the team. Yet, many times they are so busy worrying about the schedule that they do not think about the things that really affect the team.

I like think of PMs as outward-looking or inward-looking. Outward-looking PMs are looking at the schedule and pressurising the team, whereas inward-looking PMs are looking at the team and protecting the team. As an extreme, neither completely outward-looking, nor completely inward-looking PMs are desirable, because you need to satisfy both the customer and take care of the team. However, I find that most PMs are too outward-looking, to the detriment of the team.

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