The life of a Project Mangler

I spent the whole morning in the weekly project board meeting with senior stakeholders. Mostly looking disinterested.

Other project managers shuffle reams of paper and others fuss to connect their laptops to the projector to present their projects.

It’s an age but eventually I’m up to bat.

I draw them out of their distracted states with a request for a decision on whether we can identify a key sponsor and move forward on one of the projects on my board.

One of the Directors asks for a ‘proof of concept’. I pause, before ahem, delicately pointing out that the ‘proof of concept’ was completed several weeks earlier and that the ‘requested’ comprehensive report AND summary statement were sent out a month ago for their respective consumption and comments. there have been reminders too.

A few directors look visibly embarrassed. I’m sure that they are glad that it wasn’t them making this faux pas so publicly (although its easy to do with the number of documents that fly about).

Un-phased he charges on and starts asking a bundle of questions to redeem his position. I politely answer his questions.

Thankfully there are Directors and there are Directors. Eventually one of the more senior and feared respected Directors impatiently cuts through the bluster.

He very candidly admits that he didn’t have time to read the full report but did read the summary.

He votes that we should move forward if there are no other objections.

In a Machiavellian masterstroke he also suggests that the Project Sponsor should be the initial Director who asked for the ‘Proof of concept’ again.

I try not to smile while I record the various Directors unanimous confirmations of approval in my decisions log.

After this the meeting participants are more alert. I suspect only to make sure that they are not ‘volunteered’ into service.

In the 18th century it was called Press-ganging. Our US cousins use the term Bush-whacked. In the east it was known as Shanghaiing. It is thankfully less physically painful these days but it is still a management technique used everywhere.

We seem to storm through the rest of the meeting, spending time on each project to review, Status, Risks, Issues, Assumptions and Decisions required.

I almost regret the speed of progress as I also have to capture meeting notes in a typo laden shorthand on my laptop, with a view to tidying up and sending out later in the day by email.

Meeting over.

I am approached by a Senior VP. He is not the sponsor but is a high-powered influential stakeholder. He wasn’t at the earlier meeting but wants the status on the financials for one of the Projects. He asks me for a specific report with detailed breakdown on the various spend.

I add it to my list of things to do, noting that first I should consult the actual Sponsor of the project for permission to disseminate such information.

I complete my meeting notes while everything is fresh in my mind and send these out.

All morning my email was pinging with project related requests for information or direction from various people and contributors working on projects that I’m meant to be managing. If only I wasn’t being buried under paperwork.

My next meeting is in 30 minutes and it is a 2-hour workshop with one of the business divisions. I feel my stomach rumbling so decide to eat a sandwich at my desk while I respond to the queries and emails.

I respond to approx. half of them but the same number of new emails have arrived in that time. Mostly asking for the locations of project documents or for peoples contact details. All information that I’ve sent out links to before…sigh.

I run the workshop. A fair few people just use it as an opportunity to catch up on their email. (Somebody even appears to snooze).

Workshop over.

I receive a phone call from the Solutions designer who ran the ‘Proof of concept’ and who spent days writing the final report AND Summary. I tell him that the Project was approved.

He mutters bad words and tells me that he knows he was right in suspecting that nobody would read the 50-page report that he was tasked with writing.

I ask him how?

He tells me that on page 23, buried in the reams of text, he inserted the half page image of (below)

Page 23.

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