Archive for July, 2010

Mentoring Project Managers

July 31, 2010

Today was an interesting day out for myself – volunteering to take my 5-year-young niece out to the local neighborhood skating rink, I thought that it was a casual outing. What turned out was interesting not only for both of us but made me think quite a bit. This was probably the second or third instance she was coming out to learn skating – previous instances were mixed and she had turned from a very enthusiastic participant to a reluctant one. After much coaxing, she agreed to come to the rink. Once she was ready with her skates and helmet, she got tense and started crying.

This is very similar to how a first-time Manager was on the job. Obviously, thanks to our age & maturity, no one would cry out but I am sure all of us will cry internally. Looking for the nearest shoulder to pour out all our woes, what we usually need is a mentor to take us on the right line. If the project involves internal politics, delays, inadequate resources, Managers definitely feel overwhelmed with the problems they are facing and most likely the result of the project is known – going downhill.

I tried to cajole my niece, pleaded with her, enticed her with her favorite chocolates (as incentives) & finally even threatened her (by stating that I will go home leaving her alone) but the result was the same. I then decided to be a bit more patient, told her that I could not stay with her on the rink but I would support her cheering from outside. She surprisingly agreed to this suggestion.

Very similarly, I feel what would help the debutants would be the presence of a Mentor – someone whom they know and trust very well to confide all their problems with. That would definitely give them much more confidence on their job. Very few Managers admit that they have problems and need help. The system is also so chaotic that the Seniors do not have any time to guide their mentees. Nor is there any incentives to help others out. But, isnt it a very simple task to do?

All I did at the rink was walk up and down at the same pace my niece was skating. She felt a lot more comfortable seeing me at the side. After a few rounds, we made our way back home. Things could have been better but I felt that this was much better than what I expected. The other extreme option would have been to turn my back on her and walk away but I couldnt, looking at her plight.

Why cant one follow the same path of Mentoring Project Managers in real-life? They definitely need a lot of help and are crying out for help. But, they don’t know whom to ask and how to seek the experts out. Maybe we can create a site of  ‘Agony Aunts/Uncles‘ to help them out on the net, if there are no internal forums to help them. But, help them we must. Hope you agree.

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How many people do you manage?

July 5, 2010

This is a question that pops up as soon as one grows higher in the hierarchy? There is a very wrong perception that the more people you have under you (directly or indirectly), more powerful you are.

Is it true? Does it motivate a Manager (even though it may not be the right way) in a way that it affects his output? Or is it the other way around? Is the manager able to focus very clearly on the tasks needed?

From what I have seen, this is just a number and nothing more than that. At any given point of time, one should have an immediate relationship of less than 20 (more than this, one will not be able to do justice). Well, I am not talking about the CxO-level folks here – instead the focus is on the mid-level Managers.

Can they actually figure what their team is working? Not in detail, but at a level that they can converse with their customers and speak sense on the output being delivered. Do they know the issues that the project teams are facing? Do they know the perception from the customer-side? If not, what is the value they are bringing in on the Account?

Very often, I have noticed that Managers think that their position in the organization gets diluted if the number of reportees are reduced. If they can concentrate on motivating the teams to fulfill their targets and help them achieve their goals, that will be of greater help than just having a longer hierarchy.

What is your observation in organizations? Do you feel that a longer chain does help in better management?

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