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Entries in managers (2)


"Management will Derail us Quickly."

During a conference call yesterday discussing a data center consolidation/migration, the client made the following observation:

“Management will derail us quickly.”

This is a topic often discussed in hushed tones for fear of insulting “management.”  The point was simply, “During this time of transition, we need to let our people do their jobs and not get called into meetings.”

The same holds true during a large “problem management” (in ITIL-speak, sometimes called Incident Management in non-ITIL-speak.)  The technical people need to do their roles, with light handed management oversight.

The way we do this is to separate the technical team and the management team, with someone going back and forth between the two groups (often a manager.)  Management is thinking longer term during an outage or a migration (what is the impact, who do we need to notify, how are our teams holding up) and the technical team is thinking about what then need to do in the next five minutes.  The planning horizons are different.

When the two groups collide, disruption occurs.  Management is often frustrated as the technical people don’t speak in their language, the technical team is frustrated because they can’t get work finished.

There are legitimate needs for the group to overlap, such as if there is a directional change, or an unanticipated risk appears.

The owness is on the management team to keep communications at the right level.  Hyper engaged managers often find this a challenge, and one they need to think about.  Often the best approach is for a hyper engaged manager to take some time off….literally.

The best manager I ever had always scheduled time away during a major planned event.  He had the confidence in us to do our jobs, and the knowledge we would reach out if things went awry.  This doesn’t mean he was disengaged.  It means he had someone providing him with updates “on the side” and monitoring progress.  The staff appreciated the approach as they could focus on their jobs, and yet everyone knew who was accountable.

In another example, during a recent migration a cabling subcontractor dropped a ball introducing a schedule lag.  Bottom line is the time was going to be extended, although still in the window.  The manager needed to take some time out of the office…and grab lunch.  Hovering would do nothing useful.

As project managers, it’s important to understand these dynamics and help the managers get what they need while not disrupting the teams.


Why are Consultants more Effective than Staff?

With the specific exception of consultants having skills and expertise a client needs and does not possess, we find staff can be more effective than consultants, and are often blocked from successful delivery by their own management.

Seeing this TED video makes the point about people working at work:

As a consultant I often find myself working in company cafeterias.  It allows me to “get in the flow” (or on the jazz) and get some work complete.


With the specific case of consultants having skills and expertise a client needs and does not possess, we find many staff are quite knowledgeable.

The can’t always be effective because of the M&Ms (Managers & Meetings)

As consultants we don’t have


  • monthly budgets (we have project/program budgets)
  • to attend company meetings
  • to write/present performance appraisals
  • etc.


In short, we are dedicated to a heads down function over time.

The same could happen with staff if they were able to be dedicated to a function over time.

So the question I ask managers is how can you let your staff have some dedicated time?

Meeting free Fridays is not the answer either.  These are simply used to get caught up on email.

What can YOU do to make a difference for your staff, or if you’re an individual contributor what do YOU need from your manager.