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I'm new to project management. I'm working in a software company. We have a team of 5 members. I was a developer too 4 months ago and was promoted to the project manager position. In my 4 months of experience, I found it really difficult to manage the team and the project and I'm struggling to learn the necessary skills. I hope I'll learn it very soon.

There are two problems I am facing. One issue is that some of the team members are wasting time during working hours, such as using Facebook or having long call on mobile phone (even for hours). I can block Facebook and restrict use of mobile but I feel that it won't create a healthy environment in the organisation. I just want the team to stick to their plan but this never happened. I have planned to install Redmine to plan everything and make the team to update the status. Is there anything to do other than that?

I am never able to deliver as planned.

The second problem is that I was a developer who got promoted amongst the 4 developers. Everytime I take some hard actions, I get into a heated argument which I wish to avoid.

My boss is living abroad in another country and I'm here to manage the team and project.

Please provide me some tips to streamline my job.

  • 2
    The problems you're mentioning are being noticed only after you become the PM or they were already happening in the past? – Tiago Cardoso Sep 3 '13 at 10:32
  • @TiagoCardoso The reason for terminating the previous project manager is due to huge delay in delivering the project. But the team mates worked as the project manager always asks for the status every 3 hours. Since he was from staying abroad, we use facebook. But work was done on time. – Vijaychandar Sep 4 '13 at 8:08
11

My answer will focus on the type of authority you have and the process of teaming.

As the newly minted leader of this team, on which you served as a peer, you have an interesting dynamic at play where the others are likely to test your authority and abilities. This can be a natural consequence of the change and trying to figure out whether you have the ability to lead them but can also be a consequence of being jealous for not being chosen ahead of you.

People naturally gravitate to a leader; even known leaders will defer power and authority to someone who is in a better position to lead. Review French and Raven's Five Forms of Power. Understand that, while most effective leaders use what they called Expert and Referent power bases, there are times when the others are needed as they are not without benefits. Obviously, the more you are perceived as this expert or referent type of leader, the better, and you need to move in that direction if you are able. The bottom line, the responsibility is yours and yours alone to build the respect as their leader. You may have to play the punishment card, including removing and replacing team members, to help gain this respect, but do so carefully and with consideration.

The second process you need to understand is the teaming process. A change occurred: you were promoted to the leadership role. With any change on any team, you can see a quick degradation in team maturity, where the team's behavior begins to appear as if they are new to each other. You need to respond with the management type techniques that are consistent with a new team. There are a ton of teaming exercises you can deploy--many with questionable efficacy--but one of the things you do for a new team, a team that is forming and storming, is increased oversight and control--those things that look a bit like micromanaging.

This may seem counterintuitive since we have all been taught that micromanaging is bad. But rarely is something bad all the time in all cases. And it has been quite a disservice to teach such a thing.

You need to have a higher control on the team's behavior and actions as it grows in maturity, and then release those things as you see evidence of maturity.

My last thought is around your comment on unproductive time. I would suggest that this is more about you than them, i.e., it is quite uncomfortable to see your team waste time and comes across quite disrespectful of you. Get over it. Employees are generally productive around 50% to maybe 70% of their day. I believe that to be a normal range. Trying to grow that can certainly be beneficial but I do not think it is sustainable. In other words, increase work tempo temporarily then allow it to return to normal levels. Much of the unproductive time can be exploited to help the teaming process, simply by way of socializing and getting to know each other and getting to care about each other. These are variables to a high performing team.

One more thing: "...heated arguments." Arguments and debates are good. Conflict is good. This is how high performing teams form solutions. When your team gets there, this is not something you want to avoid. This is something you want to facilitate. You may need to squash this now because of where your team is, but remove this notion of avoidance. Replace with encourage.

7

Welcome to being promoted to the role of management of a failing project.

When you were just a normal member of the development team, the project was failing. The previous project manager copped the blame and was sacked. They've looked around and made you the manager.

Now, you have a short window to make a difference. It cannot be carry on as before, because otherwise the only thing that will change is that next time it's you that gets blamed and sacked.

Your only choice is to make a difference.

Perhaps the difference you make will be catastrophic, the project will fail, you will be blamed.. err hang on, that was happening anyway. The point I'm making is that what ever decisions you have the authority to make are unlikely to make the situation substantially worse.

Perhaps you will make an inspired difference, just like a magic wand, everything will be perfect, there will be 30% pay rises, large bonuses, share options... err, thats not likely to happen either.

In reality most choices you make will not make much difference

The most important thing to remember is that when things are going wrong, it is important to make changes. Some changes will work better than others, but by making changes and monitoring the effects you can continue to do the things that work, and stop the bits that don't work.

Whilst each change on its own will not make much difference, a series of 1% changes over time will build up.

What would I do as a first step?

Well, first of all, you cannot succeed without your team, but by the sounds of it, your team is not committed to the project, or possibly even to you as their leader. Assuming you have a little breathing room, and are not about to reach a major delivery date, with nothing to show I would focus on performing the role of a team manager to the best of my ability, ignoring the team output, work ethic and time keeping.

What is the role of the team manager?

Ahh, glad you asked. Whilst they have many duties, (usually the stuff that no developer would do even if you paid them), the key role is to make it as easy as possible for your developers to do their job.

What things get in the way of developers on your team? Is the build tool chain a nightmare? Are the computers old and slow? Do they have too much office admin?

Now here's the deal. Really, and its an absolute bargain. In exchange for you spending your time working to make their lives easier, all they need to do is to spend 5 minutes each day telling you what they did yesterday, and what they are going to do today.

You get to hold them to account about why they are still doing something 3 days later that they thought would only take a few hours (can Joe spend 30 minutes having a look at that with you...), but also, you get to thank them for delivering on what they did yesterday too.

Over time, with the developers feeling good about making small daily achievements, and you making each day just slightly more productive, you might just turn the team around.

6

One issue is that some of the team members are wasting time during working hours

I can imagine that those guys are not easy to cooperate with. The reasons of such behavior may come from outside (boring tasks, private live problems) or from "inside" of a team member ;) (like laziness).

Try to involve the team in being responsible for the work they do, also for organizing the way they work. For example, make a weekly meeting when you will discuss what you (team) can improve and what they (developers) do not like in their work.

Look also at the daily stand-up meetings which are for example in Scrum. Each developer says on it what he achieved a day before. Those who spent time on Facebook will hopefully start to feel ashamed that they do not have so good results as the others.

Do all those things in a team spirit, trying to avoid treating them like from a higher position.

Easy to say, huh? ;)

  • My previous project manager does daily scrum since he is managing the team from abroad. But after i took the responsibility, i stopped daily scrum. I think i have to make daily scrum and weekly meeting. – Vijaychandar Sep 3 '13 at 7:07
  • Ah. So does those meetings bring any value? Do you think the discussion may go better when you will be the facilitator of those meetings? – Paweł Polaczyk Sep 3 '13 at 7:59
  • yes.. Since there were also some problem about status updation. i hope daily scrum will make some change in the team.. – Vijaychandar Sep 3 '13 at 18:58
4

You need to stop and ask yourself what are the reasons for such team's behavior.

I know that you're probably looking quick win and easy answer, but what you're describing is a complex problem and might be caused by many different things:

  • unrealistic timeline
  • poor quality
  • bad office space (yes!)
  • micromanagement
  • low skills of coworkers

From what you've put in your question first thing that comes to mind is that the project timeline is completely unrealistic and people feel disconnected from it. A general rule of thumb is that people that are supposed to do the work, should estimate it, so when you will be building the project timeline it will be their estimate and they will feel committed and responsible for it.

Or maybe your people do not like the quality of the work they're doing at your company?

I would recommend you one book, that is probably the best book on how to manage software development team and keep them engaged:

Peopleware by Tom Demarco & Timothy R. Lister

Below are a couple of quotes to get you interested.

One of seven false hopes of software management:

Belief: Your people will work better if you put them under a lot of pressure. Response: They won’t–they’ll just enjoy it less.

One about trying to "mobilize" team:

Even if kicking people in the backside did boost their short term productivity, it might not be useful in the long run: There is nothing more discouraging to any worker than the sense that his own motivation is inadequate and has to be “supplemented” by that of the boss.

And what your job is:

The manager’s function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work.

I strongly recommend you to read this book, it touches many different aspects of how to run a team and what makes a great team. It should significantly help you especially that you're new to your role.

Good luck!

  • Thanks for your suggestion. I have a habit of asking my team members to submit a plan when ever i give a task. I used to give them the scenario, what is the client problem and i asked them to design a solution themselves. Is it a good idea? – Vijaychandar Sep 3 '13 at 6:49
  • @Vijay yeah, it makes sense. Although you need to be aware that in software development it's rather guestimate than estimate and sometimes they will fail. If you think it's not schedule, then look for other things. Seriously Peopleware can help you A LOT. – Piotr Uryga Sep 3 '13 at 6:57
  • My previous project manager does daily scrum since he is managing the team from abroad. But after i took the responsibility, i stopped daily scrum. I think i have to make daily scrum and weekly meeting. – Vijaychandar Sep 3 '13 at 7:08
  • @Vijay I'll be honest Daily Scrum from abroad doesn't sound great. Reintroduction of Daily Scrums might help, but I urge you dig deeper as much as agile is great and might help, demotivated team will simply resist and this will diminish agile value. – Piotr Uryga Sep 3 '13 at 8:52
2

TL;DR

In my professional opinion, most of the problems you describe are the result of a perceptual problem on your end. They are probably exacerbated by misunderstanding the role of a project manager in your particular organization, and a failure to differente between influence and authority. You need to engage more closely with your team and with your absentee management.

Focus on Results

[S]ome of the team members are wasting time during working hours, such as using Facebook or having long call on mobile phone[.]

Focus on results rather than on your perception of the team's level of utilization. It doesn't really matter how much time your developers spend on other activities if project objectives are being met.

While it's certainly possible that everyone on the team is a lazy bum milking the clock, you were a member of that team yourself until recently. If they (and you) were unproductive before, why would you expect that to change suddenly? If you felt like things were fine when you were a developer, it seems more likely that the change is one of perception because of your new responsibilities.

Change Your Process

Your current process doesn't work. Some issues you've identified include:

  • You have absentee management.
  • You don't have buy-in from the developers.
  • You have a command-and-control management style.
  • Your schedules are not realistic based on your current process.

You should re-evaluate all of these items, and I would strongly recommend evaluating them with the whole team. Imposing project controls without buy-in will rarely get deliverables shipped on time because project controls are generally detective rather than corrective in nature. Effective project managers need to rely on soft skills, rather than wielding a big stick, to generate results.

Senior Management is Responsible

In the end, senior management is solely responsible for managing the productivity of the team. They are responsible for:

  • Hiring the developers.
  • Managing the developers (or not).
  • Placing you in the project management role.
  • Managing you (or not).
  • Choosing the way the organization interfaces with the team.

Your job is fundamentally informational. If you feel that the project is out of control, you need to provide project transparency and visibility to senior management so they can take corrective action. If you really do have individual performance problems rather than process problems, then you need to refer personnel issues to line managers for action. If you feel that you are out of your depth in your new role, then you need to be honest with your line manager about that, too.

2

Your team is small enough to be manageable in a micro-planning basis. Sit with the ones with most responsibility and ask them about their deliverables. Ask him to assign development time to each of them, and then plan their week with them leaving an extra hour or so free as a buffer for fb, coffee, etc.

Then show them how much they have to have finihed per day, and set a meeting mid Friday to see how much they actually finished. They will slowly realize that they CAN do a lot, but they DON'T because they don't know how to use their time wisely.

This has helped me in many occasion (the first time, I was the one in the hot seat).

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