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I am managing a project in a very small team. There is one junior developer and a senior developer. The senior developer is a shareholder of the company and wrote all the code in the company’s system. He is my boss, as well as a project team member.

Whatever plans we make to handle priorities and resources, it turns out that the Senior Developer holds back some information on additional tasks that were required or reassigns priorities himself without sharing this information and going through a change process. Often the changes are for good reason that he just hadn’t previously shared. The rest of the company is frustrated by the constantly missed deadlines and no amount of scoping. Senior Developer, the projects constantly run late.

I’ve tried setting time aside to fully scope/score out tasks, planning a roadmap, setting single tasks to work on at one time, and setting large buffers to estimated times but none of this has helped. The Senior Developer is still working on his own.

As the team grows this is becoming increasingly impossible to work with for the company but he has all the tech knowledge.

How can I get the Senior Developer to commit to the project management process?

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  • Who is the senior developers boss and what do they think about the current process?
    – nvoigt
    Mar 7, 2023 at 14:06
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    You can not. Good luck :) Mar 8, 2023 at 1:58
  • @nvoigt The boss is trying not to get involved because I) he see's it as my responsibility to fix the problem, ii) if the Senior Dev holds the tech to the entire company so if he gets disgruntled and leaves then the entire company has severe problems.
    – username
    Mar 8, 2023 at 8:24
  • So, your job is to manage two people, where one of those two people doesn't listen to you and manages themselves. So you are basically the manager of one person?
    – Philipp
    Mar 24, 2023 at 9:43
  • "How can I get the Senior Developer to commit to the project management process?" Is there an agreed upon project management process? It does not sound that way.
    – Jan Doggen
    Mar 27, 2023 at 9:41

5 Answers 5

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How can I get the Senior Developer to commit to the project management process?

What are the personal consequences to him when he doesn't commit? Formalize them, make them tangible (monetary), and the problem will be solved very soon.

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From my point of view, you have to look for the reasons, why the Senior Developer is holding back information. Is this information clear to him? Does he want to delay the progress (even intentionally)? What are the personal goals of the Senior Developer?

Concluding, without talking to him intensively you won't make any point. Make him clear about your goals and the goals of the project. In that way, one can achieve the transparency and trust of the Senior Developer.

I wish this situation wouldn't be so common.

Further, I cannot believe that there would be some more technical way to overcome this Situation.

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Any good business assesses proper processes through regular audits around compliance and risk. A lack of clear communications or identification of deliverables in outcomes, can only impede a business.

If we reference the period of COVID just passed as global pandemic. That identified business processes that are weak or those that are strong.

A proper delineation of management, project outcomes and deliverables is essential if you want a business to prosper.

It worries me that the company owner distrusts those in his employment, not to have the knowledge or full access to the code that seems essential.

A failure to implement proper and reasonable change processes or any semblance of proper project management, only increases risk and increases unwanted exposures around risk that could bring the business and its systems to its knees

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    – Community Bot
    Mar 8, 2023 at 21:16
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The situation is complicated. I faced a similar situation, but my team was much bigger. What I can suggest is to focus on factual information rather than ideas or feelings. In short, be factual. When your boss is working on a project and he's acting as a team member, he has to follow the same rules as other team members and the work has to be framed by the project manager. For larger projects, there are usually technical plans such as the Project Management Plan (PMP), Software Development Plan (SDP), etc. that clearly define the roles of the stakeholders, their responsibilities (in terms of RACI matrix), the project scope, schedule, budget and risks. For projects with a smaller team, these plans usually do not exist. However, the project manager's (PM's) job is to tailor existing tools and scale them to the size of the team's project. One simple tool I highly recommend is to organize stand-ups (e.g. twice a week) and point out any elements that block or risk delaying deliverables. Stand-ups are, by definition, done in front of a whiteboard, so there is no time for long discussions. Participants must be synthetic in explaining the difficulties they are facing. The goal is not to solve problems, but to keep everyone informed and on the same page. In this way, the problem of information retention should be solved. The second thing I can recommend is to formalize the exchanges with your team.At the end of a meeting (for stand-up the post-it on the whiteboard are enough) it is important to write the MoM, list the actions to be implemented specifying who is responsible for the implementation, what are the conditions necessary to implement the action, and their deadlines.

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He is my boss, as well as a project team member.

That is the key statement - not that he is also a shareholder. Indirectly, he is his own boss, and the boss of everyone around.

You are a puppet - or maybe even a scape goat. If he does not agree to follow some established processes (you DO have processes, right?), then you can only do one thing - polish your CV to make it shiny, and make is clearly visible to the market.

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