Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
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10/16/2013
11:44 AM
Phil Simon
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Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes

From the happy delusions of the Pollyanna to the spirit-crushing negativity of the Pessimist, here's how not to manage an IT project.

The Know-It-All

Nobody can know everything about an enterprise application. Some PMs have graduated from the ranks of application or technical consultants. As such, they might have the ability to answer questions about certain system-related issues. Although being able to speak intelligently about issues is hardly a liability, PMs who do not engage their teams at key points do a number of inimical things.

For one, they can alienate their consulting teams and make team members less likely to broach issues with them in the future. Second, by routinely not involving the experts, know-it-alls effectively minimize the contribution of those consultants, possibly causing clients to question the need for those consultants in the first place. Unless the consultant was specifically hired in a hybrid role of consultant/PM, that individual should routinely involve the implementation team throughout the project.

The Pollyanna

Some PMs new to projects with large scopes are ecstatic when the project makes any progress at all. Pollyannas tend to take a "glass is 10% full" approach to project management. Rather than realistically assess and deal with a project suffering from delays and budget overruns, Pollyannas focus on trying to make everyone feel good. In this sense, they are like yes-men. PMs need to be able to call a spade a spade and not worry about sugarcoating dire situations. Part of being a PM entails making tough decisions.

The Pessimist

The pessimist is the antithesis of the Pollyanna. Pessimists fail to appreciate the gains that a team and its individuals have made in the face of considerable obstacles. Pessimists routinely overemphasize what still needs to be done as opposed to what has been done.

Make no mistake here. Many projects would benefit from healthy doses of skepticism and realism. Sometimes, it's necessary to put functionality and even entire modules on the chopping block. However, both consultants and employees tend to put in long hours on projects, especially during critical times. Few things anger a team more than unalloyed negativity from a PM not burning the midnight oil. PMs who constantly criticize a team for that which it has not accomplished are likely to irritate everyone. Celebrating a significant milestone never hurt anyone.

Simon Says

Sometimes PMs need to play the role of good cop, bad cop, shrink, confidant and devil's advocate. Other times, they need to stroke the egos of key people or use PM techniques to move the project forward. While there's no secret sauce to project management, avoid the archetypes described here.

This post was adapted from my first book, Why New Systems Fail.

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thephilsimon
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thephilsimon,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/30/2013 | 8:04:24 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
Love it. Jargon sucks. Words should convey, not confuse, to paraphrase George Carlin.
thephilsimon
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thephilsimon,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/20/2013 | 7:22:11 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
Agreed. I'd start the discussion with combining functional and technical backgrounds.
JosephM874
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JosephM874,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 12:39:40 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
So, the whole time I am reading this I am thinking to myself this sounds like an advertisement. Lo and behold the author is selling a book, and probably his PM consultant services. Evidently Informationweek is like the Tonight Show where actors are invited to the show to promote their latest work. This whole article was a waste of time.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Author
10/18/2013 | 7:27:05 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
I agree, the role is extremely challenging and success requires some pretty special skills and experience.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
10/18/2013 | 2:09:30 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
I'm guessing you've got a war story of your own in mind. Could as easily be an overcomplicated editorial project as a technology one. That's okay, you don't have to tell me.
EVVJSK
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EVVJSK,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2013 | 1:35:29 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
The best phrase a project manager can EVER utter is "What can I do to help you get this done!" Sadly, most of the time, they simply want to know why it isn't done, and they don't always realize the laundry list of other things many project personnel are working on, waiting on, etc...
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
10/17/2013 | 11:16:18 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
I have always had a lot of sympathy for the soul sitting in the chair of the project manager. All of the demands and contradictions of the IT role tend to concentrate there. These six types are entertaining but I think it would be harder to describe the characteristics of three good types of project manager than six bad ones.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Moderator
10/17/2013 | 6:31:55 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
or use PM techniques to move the project forward.
Oh the wonderful PM techniques, yes I use those all the time. What kind of techniques are you talking about, maybe the old whip and chair technique, or the offer a bigger bonus technique, or the "I am going to fire everyone, threat technique? Come on what a crock of a phrase. Did you have some minimum number of words your needed to use so you just threw these useless uninformative extra few words in?
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2013 | 4:57:51 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
Another one: The Foreign Language Speaker. PMs have their own lexicon. Some learn to speak the languages of the various constituencies, while others keep spouting biz-school-speak that does not resonate with devs or other audiences.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2013 | 4:28:59 PM
re: Bad Project Managers: 6 Archetypes
I'd add one more: The Overcomplicator (OK, that's a mouthful). The PM who turns a very simple project into the Marshall Plan.
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