You are a rock star. You are the “go to” HR/Talent Acquisition Professional for your organization. You are THE girl or boy Friday. You are the favorite, you hardly ever make mistakes, you work hard and aggressively invite opportunities to grow and challenge yourself. Great job!
So when your manager walks into your office and sits down, the excitement builds. What accolades will I be receiving? What crisis will I avert, reqs will I magically fill, location’s moral will I turn around with the wave of my rock star wand? Instead, fantastic news! The HRIS/ATS you have been complaining about is finally to be replaced, enterprise wide. YOU have been so instrumental in pointing out the weaknesses of your current system, or lack thereof, that you get to manage the entire project. It’s the opportunity you have been waiting for, and your manager knows you are going to do a great job
Your manager continues on, rattling off all those buzz words you used when you were trying to influence the executive team this was a needed change; efficiencies, optimization, end user adoption, cost containment, even the dreaded headcount reduction. Unfortunately you now can no longer hear anything he/she is saying. What you can hear is your heart beat banging like Poe’s telltale heart, and what you feel is the sweat rolling down your back. The eminent evaporation of this same sweat gives you a chill which luckily snaps you out of your daze just in time to flash a pinched smile and thank your manager so much for the opportunity and ensure them that, as always, they will not be disappointed. Been here? Then read on and know you are not alone.
There are a few lessons I have learned as “non-project manager” along the way which I know can save face and sanity:
- Ensure there is a very clear scope. What is supposed to be achieved in this project? What is not supposed to be achieved? Why are you doing it? How do we measure that we are done? These are the most important questions you can ask as you can repeatedly come back to those answers to gut check what you are spending time on.
- Agree on a realist target completion date and fight for it. Remember a project is temporary, but your job (hopefully) is not. Get it done, get your props and get back to your “normal” job. Factor time zones, vacations and potentially international cultures in. Summers are a hard time to get anything done for instance as are the Christmas and New Year’s holiday. Pad your dates to cover all this potential and always push to stay ahead, not “on time”.
- Who are the resources and how does the responsibility break down? This is vital because you are NOT responsible for doing everything but you ARE responsible for making sure it gets done. In addition ensure you have a clear escalation point for each resource. Hopefully you won’t need it.
- Don’t keep it a secret if a resource is not performing or the project is at risk. It is your job to keep your eye on resource and risk, but you may not be in a position to manage those elements. Maintain weekly documentation and share it with management. Keep in mind that just like you, your resources have other responsibilities and may need assistance in managing project priorities. Maybe a quick call is all that is needed to realign your teams efforts.
In the end, keep in mind that some projects fail and not due to the efforts, or lack thereof, of the PM. You cannot control every element of your environment or organization. Plan for mistakes and have a mitigation plan in place for those items that you know have a high likelihood of impacting success.
Remember, you are a rock star and it’s just a project.
Senior Consultant, Implementation Services