My boss has asked to be project manager. I am not afraid of the challenge expect that. I don't know where to start.

We have a legacy server where a couple of apps and a lot of code is hosted. The goal is to have our operations support group take ownership of the whole thing, which would include 24x7 support and coding the occasional enhancement requests.

A quick chat by the water cooler with a couple of guys from Ops support ended up in "no way" and "you're nuts". Not good.

How would you go about defining a project strategy that keeps everybody focused on what matters? I thought of something like this:

  • These are my commitments:

    1. Provide detailed code documentation
    2. Provide detailed Standard Operating Procedures documentation
    3. Introduce Business Intelligence stake holders and ensure communication all across
    4. Propose a schedule for hand-off.
  • I would like to work with your team to

    1. Assess the required resources for ongoing support
    2. Define the proper escalation process for enhancement requests
    3. Finalize the timing for an official hand-off.

Too simplistic? I welcome your input. Thanks!

  • "These are my commitments"? Have you asked them what they need from you first? Are you basing this list on anything?
    – S.Lott
    Feb 13, 2012 at 19:12

3 Answers 3


I guess you're getting off on the wrong foot here - Your goal needs to be validated first (for realism :) - and the water cooler chat showed other signs

Now, assume everyone from all the teams you want/have to work with gave a list of "my commitments" to you. You laid them all out on the table, what are they chances that they would be in perfect sync, perfectly reconcilable and happy-happy? Quite low, right? (Think of it as each person flipping a coin and everyone gets a heads! That's 1 out of 2^n, n = # members!)

I guess you need to have a session with all the relevant (success critical) members/stakeholders. Have them in a room and tell them the goal/problem. Ask each one in turn what they expect or what is it that would make them 100% committed toward achieving the goal. Note it on a post it and stick it up on a wall. Once everything is done, try getting rid of the duplicates if you can. Else, just read each one in turn and see if anyone finds a problem with it - if not, put it on one side, else stick a different color post it to write the issue. Do the same for all post-its. For each of the issues see what are the options to resolve them.

Now, the isolated post-its are something with no issues, pretty much what everyone 'agrees' to - (if there IS a disagreement, it has an issue!). Put a tick mark on it these 'agreed' ones. Go through the options and see which ones are agreed to by the group. Put a tick on the option and the post-it and move to the other side with the agreed ones.

Once this is done, everything on the wall should be agreed to and you'd have reconciled everyone's differences and made everyone feel a "winner" i.e. they got something out of it that would make them 100% committed towards its realization! Having a "shared" goal/commitment/vision is what it'll take to succeed.

It's a simple value equation - if they see value in the initiative they'll work towards its realization. So spend some time in the meeting/workshop to articulate/capture value and the related goals of achieving it. Only THEN do the above, else it'll be a waste! (Write that down on the side of the white/black board or flip chart, so that everyone can see it).

This should help you tremendously, it works in practice and I've tried this with numerous teams and have seen consistent results!

Hope it helps!

PS: The discussion may lead to more post-its when you are discussing issues/options or other post-its. That's totally fine and expected AND valuable!

  • 1
    Accepted and voted up. Your detailed approach will help!! Thanks so much for taking the time to jot this down!
    – Chris
    Feb 13, 2012 at 23:34
  • My pleasure! Do lemme know how it works out (if you chose this or your approach).
    – PhD
    Feb 13, 2012 at 23:51
  • Your advice worked out as most stakeholders were pleased that their concerns were heard. Thanks again.
    – Chris
    Mar 1, 2012 at 18:07
  • That's good news! I sincerely appreciate you leaving post facto feedback! Best of luck with similar reconciliations :)
    – PhD
    Mar 1, 2012 at 19:55
  • 1
    I am barely scratching the surface pm-wise but I am feeling I am going to have to be a mom, a dad, a mentor, a politician, a mediator etc...new territory for this old fart would spent most of his life writing code. Thanks again :)
    – Chris
    Mar 2, 2012 at 20:27

Who, what, where, when, why, and how. Answer those question and you have a strategy. Answer them with specificity, and you have a plan.


There is a difference between a management strategy and a tactic. In fact, you have your management vision that includes a plan, and that plan include strategies and tactics. (to put it simply).

A strategy is a general way of doing things, whereas a tactic is a specific task that helps you acheive your strategy.

You could have for example a strategy like: I want people to communicate daily what they need to do their job. The tactic is to find a specific way to do it: Emails, twitter, talking to each other, etc.

Becoming a project manager with a programmer background is very good because you will understand very well what your team members are doing daily. But the trap is for you not to have a general view of what is going on. You have to pass from technical side to the management side. Reflect daily about the big problems that you face as a team or will have to face, and let the technical stuff to your team members. You can help them once in a while, but you have to keep in mind always a broader perspective.

  • 2
    Level of decomposition. That is the only difference. Feb 14, 2012 at 19:08
  • What do you mean exactly by level of decomposition? Feb 15, 2012 at 13:21
  • We put different words on action that really differentiates the level of specificity of that action. A strategy answers the 5 Ws and the 1 H (my answer below) in a high level, ambiguous way. A tactical plan merely decomposes those 5 Ws and 1 H into something with more granularity. For example, my strategy is to travel from the east coast to the west coast by air in the next month. My plan is fly United, leaving tomorrow at 4:00 pm, with one stop in Chicago. Answer the 5Ws and 1H at any level of specificity and you have a great approach. Feb 15, 2012 at 13:39
  • So you grade you strategies depending on their importance or on how your strategy is specific or more general? In a Strategic planification process, usually we place them in order of importance: the most important one on the top; the others second, third, etc. Feb 21, 2012 at 14:57

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