The path of the IT manager (part # 2)

    ( part # 1 )

    Realizing that moving faster and doing more and more in the wrong direction is not an option, I began to look towards management processes. But which ones?

    I realized that I needed help or sensible advice. Unfortunately, the atmosphere in the company did not have confidence and I could not ask for advice from the head. This should have told me a lot, but at that time I did not pay attention to such “trifles”. The excellent student’s syndrome also did its job and harmed me, not allowing me to ask questions and ask for help.

    At some of the local management events where I went, despite the most severe time pressure in the project and lack of free time, I heard the phrase “the right processes”.

    “That's what I need,” I thought. - Just what does “right” mean?



    Probably the right ones are those that are described in smart books or in management schools. And what is our most authoritative organization about management in the world? Of course PMI - Project Management Institute.

    And I thought I needed to read PMBoK - Project Management Body of Knowledge. After all, there are described all the processes for project management. From the very beginning to the end.

    Having started reading PMBoK of the latest edition, I realized that this is another rabbit hole. Processes dragged me into a whirlpool of abstractions, inputs and outputs, some clever names and incomprehensible sequences of actions. And as a practical person, I wanted to attach all this to my reality. But I did not succeed. It was very clever and sensible on paper. But the project needed a result, not a written and certified by the stakeholders communication management plan, or project plan — a document describing the project, not a project schedule, as many people think when hearing the words “project plan”.

    While I was swimming in the universe of processes, documents and dependencies, my project confidently went downhill, gaining more speed and already starting to publish a desperate “Tu-tu!” before the crash. The necessary project results were never done. The benefit was not created. The deadlines again rescheduled.

    Surely all written and approved processes would help my project in the future. Or if they were created at the very beginning of the project and maintained up to date during its development, then perhaps I would not have entered the production deadlock without having the results of the project on hand.



    After the next status meeting on the project with my manager, at which he clearly and directly doubted my competence as a manager, I realized that processes are also not a panacea. They are clearly not enough.

    They began to consider me an aspiring bureaucrat who regulates everything and thereby, to a considerable degree, slows down the project. And I was afraid that it would be worthwhile to step back from the processes, as the project would definitely fail. Although he already flew into the abyss. With or without processes. But with the processes, he died predictably, according to plan and in a controlled manner.

    Having actively invested in the study, creation and configuration of processes, I ran into the same problems that I had only from a different angle.

    - Dima, how long will this task take? I asked my engineer at the morning meeting.
    “Well ... maybe four days if everything is okay.” - Dima answered slowly, swallowing freshly brewed aromatic coffee.
    “We are already late in terms of time, can you do it in two and a half days?” Overtimes I agree. OK?
    “Well ... I'll try.” But you understand that there is complex code and integration with an external system. Third-party problems that we now don’t even suspect can come out.
    - Well, let's meet tomorrow morning and you’ll tell me how the forecast will change in your opinion. Will we succeed for the remaining one and a half days or not. And if not, what will be the new term. In our new assessment process, we move iteratively and refine the final estimate as we approach it.


    I was desperate. This approach to work did not lead to a reduction in time. Yes, perhaps initially the very first estimate of the project timeline was erroneous. But now there's nowhere to go. We had a fixed price and all the previously laid reserves were already exhausted. We finished the last - project buffer. Ahead along all branches of the project plan loomed a critical path in all its glory. It's like getting into a room of evil crooked mirrors. Everywhere I look, some kind of monster stares at me from all sides. All the paths of the project have become similar to such mirrors - deadlock and lack of reserves everywhere. And for some we have already gone beyond deadline. That was the end. My manager will not accept the next request for postponement.

    I was in extreme stress for several days. Dmitry, as usual, made a mistake with the assessment. Or maybe he just did the job as fast as he could, although he always politely answered me, “I'll try.” But probably did not even try. And he didn’t bother. After all, his main functional manager was quite pleased with him, regardless of the results of my project. And I had no power over Dmitry. Exactly the same picture was with other members of my team. This was my personal managerial impasse. I was ready to give up. To admit that I have turned out to be a bad and incompetent leader. And go back to the developers.



    Having decided to quit, I thought it would be nice to meet friends and share with them my impressions of the project, of management and of my “successes”. Phoned and the next day gathered with the guys after work in a cafe.

    - Sergey, hello! Well, how are you? What is your project there? All OK? - Friends bombarded me with questions.
    - Alas. Full tryndets. All polymers are profucans. - My voice was sad, while morally I already had nothing to lose. I put up with the fact that tomorrow morning I’ll put a letter of resignation on the table to my supervisor. - No matter how I tried, no matter how I delved into the work of the employees, nothing helped. All grades failed. We are out of time I don’t remember what time. The team does not perceive me as a leader, but only as some kind of task coordinator among its other more important tasks. Everything crumbles. Yes, and the team, in general, no. So, a group of specialists, each working on their task at a convenient time for them. It feels like sand is seeping through your fingers and nothing remains in your hands. No results. But the sand we sifted hoo how much. According to reports - a lot of work has been completed. But the project is in a deep day. In general, I'm going to quit.

    - Hey hey! Hush! Wait a minute! - Kolya took the floor. He worked as a manager in a large international IT company. For some reason, until today, I did not realize to consult with him, but tried to solve my problems myself. - You know, it seems to me that you lack the knowledge of working with people. Negotiations, conflict resolution, persuasion, motivation and typology of people, how people behave, in what situations and why. You did not need this knowledge while you were a developer. But in the position of leader, they are the key ones. This set of knowledge and especially skills is also called Management Soft Skills. At the same time, it is quite difficult to pump and develop them and it takes more than one day of regular practice. And you have a problem right now and you need to solve it. And only after that we can talk about the long term.



    And we sat down with friends to discuss what can be done in the short term on my project. Finished already after midnight. It turned out an action plan with ready steps for the project, options for the development of the situation described in the mind map. And also, what exactly do I need to talk with the manager right tomorrow morning. More precisely today

    - Good luck to you! - the guys wished me and we went home.



    As Sergey told me, the story with his first project ended not badly. The first pancake was not lumpy, the project did not fail, but only because Sergei asked for clear and understandable help from his leader with the points of the action plan that he and his friends prepared. If not for this, the project would have definitely been disrupted.

    And Sergey went to study and pump Soft Skills. Now he is a very successful IT project manager with an excellent resume and very impressive experience in the industry. And he knows for sure that Soft Skills - the ability to work with people - is key to the success of the project. Of course, we do not forget about processes, documents, planning, risks, contracts, budgets, etc. - these are all Hard Skills. However, Hard Skills alone are not enough. It is imperative for them to have Soft Skills skills. And then we can very likely come to the success of the project.

    Have a nice day and success!

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