Why there are so many jokes about Project Managers?

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Why I hear so often from developers that project managers they work with are the least educated and know next to nothing about the work their employees do? I can’t even decide who is the least respected by developers – managers or QAs. Of course, when I am talking to my teams I hear jokes only about QAs…But who knows what happens when I leave the room? 🙂
It seems that we constantly pass over qualified people for promotion and somehow get a lot of terrible idiot project managers. How that can be?

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WTF Project Manager is doing in Scrum team?

IMG_6532Thousands of companies are changing to agile, thousands are already agile (they tell you so very confidently). Some of them implemented Scrum. But I still come across of a lot of Project Managers in such companies. Ok, even better – I have a title of “Senior PM” myself (I hope no one from my teams/colleagues will not see my business cards, as they don’t know I am a PM ^_^). When company implements scrum they have to make a hard decision – what to do with these PMs we have? And usually they have a lot of PMs. I have seen companies where there is 1 PM per each 2 developers. Usually they become Scrum Masters or Product Owners, as it seems the most natural way. Just change the title and that is all – you are the Scrum Master now. Sometimes PMs are left as they were – they still “manage” the projects.

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Why developers are slow?

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Development seems to be one of the slowest things on the earth – I hear so many complaints about it’s slowness every day. “Why we can’t do that in a day instead of a week?”, “We missed deadline because your developers are too slow, they should work faster!.”

Sometimes project managers think that the team they got is the slowest they can imagine. And they dream about making it 2 times faster (I mean “work 2 times faster”). But the fact is that there is a big chance the team is pretty average and managers don’t get the difference between “make the flow faster” and “make the team work faster”. They somehow think if the developers start typing 2 times faster everything would be fine with the schedule.

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How technical should a project manager be

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Browsing the open PM position vacancies you can find out that employers are looking for project managers who know how to code in just about every existing language (not let than 10+ years of experience) with several technical, not PM, certifications tossed in.

But is it necessary for the PM to be a technical guy? Seems that now almost every company has their own definition of the “project manager” – that can be anything from the pm-secretary to pm-software architect. But let’s use our common sense and find out why there are so many people who insist on PMs having a lot of development experience.

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What if developers are [cheating] giving you the unreasonably high estimates?

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That is seems to be the PMs nightmare – your developers are lying to you when they provide you the estimates. For the 1-hour task they give you 1-week estimation and spend the whole week watching youtube videos with cats. HAHAHAHA!!!

Are you already scared to death?

It also should be a rather common problem, as I often get such a question during the job interview. “Galina, what would you do if developer gives you the unrealistic estimations?”.  They ask me and wait for some one-for-all-cases answer. Probably they expect me to say something like “I will double check all the estimates myself/with the other developer”.  So I will be a kind of the PM auditor. And then they are definitely ready to ask – “And what if the other developer lies to you too”? Seems to be one global developer’s conspiracy. What one small PM can do against that?

My honest answer to all of that is: “I’ll resign ASAP, as I killed that team and should not do any more harm. Then I ‘ll walk outside the office and perform seppuku”.
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Personal Kanban: my experience

IMG_5273I think every Project Manager knows how easily you can become flooded with the tasks. While developers can afford spending some time on the single task, PM has to switch between a lot of tasks during the single hour (some PMs think that they are multitasking, but it is not true :). Sometimes, in the end of the day I feel like I spent all my time on switching and dream about getting some task on which I can spend 3 hours in a row and not been distracted.

Developers usually say that while they work they fully wrap their mind around the task at hand, they create the “mental model” of the classes, methods, etc and they need some time to “get context loaded” when they start working with the task.  They feel something like the “work stream”, so when they are distracted – it takes time to get back to it.

I should say, for me PMs work process is the same – I get to the office in the morning, sit in my chair and have so spend some time to “load mental model” of my projects: project details, people, relationships, todos, etc. Sometimes I do that on my way to work. I am not keeping all details in my head all the time – I unwrap this model when it is needed. The difference between the “work stream” of developer and the manager is that manager’s constants of “interruptions” –  you have to think quick, make some decisions, answer questions and be always alarmed.

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Zombie team management: team health check-list

IMG_5205I believe that Project manager is here, on this planet, not only for the projects to be delivered in time and on budget. On of the most important things for the Project managers is to care about their teams. In software development I always worked so close with the teams, that I couldn’t imagine I can avoid supporting teams health, mood and motivation.
So, let’s talk about monitoring your team health, so you can see the signs of the death coming or any feed back of the system on your actions. By the way, some Project managers prefer to work with zombie teams, as they are so easy to control. I am not judging, so you can use the check-list the both ways – to prevent your team becoming a zombie team and to make you team a zombie team.

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What I have to say about self-organizing teams

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Remember Agile manifesto? ‘The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams’. But why self-organizing teams? How to build them? How do they emerge?

When I say “self-organizing teams” top managers usually think ‘teams which need no management’, ‘magic teams which work twice as much’. They behave as if we can just hire 10 nice people, put them in one room and tell them “And now you have to self-organize.’ We talk a lot about such teams, but rarely can we assemble one. Some of my colleagues even say that it is a luxury to have such teams and we just can’t afford them.

I tried to collect all my thoughts on the self-organizing teams in this post.

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