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There is a project team of about dozen of people. Whole development stuff is done by a team (7 people) led by a manager who is responsible for this part of the project. The manager organizes tasks, share the workload among developers, verify quality of their work, etc.

The problem is he doesn't raise any project issues, e.g. even when he believes deadlines are too tight for his team he doesn't communicate it and just get people working until someone else realizes that there will be slip. No matter whether the problem is solvable or whether anyone else is aware of it he doesn't let PM (or others) know until it's too late.

Simple solutions, like explicitly asking him to communicate about problems or trying to get him involved in risk management doesn't work. The manager himself and his team can't be replaced with another group.

How to improve the way he communicates project-related issues?

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The best way that I've found to get information from people is to ask questions frequently and be proactive. As a PM, sometimes it's hard to remember to communicate with everyone, and vice versa.

Some of the people I work with regularly track me down and meet either in person or via video conference so that they can ask me how things are going and get into more specifics. Most of the time, the questions help remind me of other updates that I need to give to that person or even to others.

This tactic works for dealing with people who aren't managers as well as dealing with those that are managers. Communication is a two way street. Ideally, it helps if both parties are proactive, but sometimes one or the other must step up and ask more questions to balance things out.

As a PM, I try my best to update everyone, but sometimes I forget or lose track of things; I've come to really appreciate those team members who do take initiative.

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The guy who first has to admit he won't make the deadline becomes the scapegoat. So, if the deadline is too tight for your team, but even tighter for a 3rd team, it is in the PM's best interest not to communicate.

Ordering him to do weekly presentations or status reports is a typical response, but this only makes matters worse. The typical status report for a project is an Excel sheet full of green traffic lights. This is true even if every single member on the team knows the project is FUBAR and weekly progress is zero.

What I would try is the "SCRUM" approach. Organize a team meeting with the full team. Ask each person what he thinks he can do next week. One week later, have the same meeting, but with two parts: what did you do last week, and what do you think you can do next week?

Key points:

  • Ask for conservative estimates (they'll still be too optimistic)
  • In a first cycle, if 50% is done, that's a good score. If it's less, investigate why. If it's more, put checks in place to ensure done is really done.
  • Keep a written log of every week's promises and realizations

This helps shift the best behavior from "everything's fine here" to "we'e moving forward as best as we can". A weekly cycle makes problems visible quickly.

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Here are three potential solutions.

Building off of @jmort253's answer, have him give weekly presentations on the status of each project. This will give you chance to ask about problems directly and to connect the dots yourself, as it were, to spot where potential problems might be.

Use Percent Complete or Earned Value Metrics Using more quantifiable metrics on a project can help you spot problems without requiring the manager's direct input.

Tell him its not his fault Oftentimes people don't report problems because they believe it will reflect poorly on their abilities. They think that if things aren't going right it is their fault. I communicate to my managers that their job is to report the facts, objectively and that if things aren't going well, objectively speaking, it is not their fault. Of course, there is accountability. But they are not expected to be able to control every variable.

The example I generally give is the Engineer of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek (Scotty or the engineer from the crew of your choice). When they report that something is wrong with the warp drive, nobody thinks that they are idiots and that its their fault. They appreciate having the information and can now make rational decisions based on that information.

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It depends on where you are in the relationship. If this manager reports to you, then some coaching and mentoring is needed. They may not understand the importance of the 'heads up'.

If you report to the manager - you need to make sure he has the information to raise the issue, what it is, and what the impact is. You don't have the information about why (or indeed, if) the issue isn't raised.

As an example, I'm working on a project with very tight timelines, and i do raise the issue with the sponsor, and we discuss the implications and decisions are made. The decision is often, Okay we'll deal with the fallout and the risk as we go along. This is because timing is critical for the delivery.

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until someone else realizes that there will be slip.

What happens next? How this guy is affected by the project problems? I assume that he is not.

The problem here is a lack of Human Resource Plan, which shall explicitly state responsibilities, rewards, and penalties (non-monetary first of all).

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