This summer Patrice Colancecco Embry posted an article on The Digital Project Manager suggesting that project managers needed to show empathy not just towards team members and stakeholders, but towards the project itself.
In this interview Patrice and Dave dig in a little deeper on the idea of showing empathy for your project, why and how you'd go about doing that. They also get into the how important it is for the PM to show empathy for him/herself and when it is okay to totally hate the project.
If you'd like to check out Patrice's original article, you can find it here: http://www.thedigitalprojectmanager.com/managing-project-empathy/
@brennaheaps kicks off the March PhilaPM Meetup by asking a room full of Digital PMs if any of them have had to overcome an overwhelming challenge with a team.
By traditional PM standards, this is an odd question.
Answering it requires admitting there are times when you don’t know what you are doing and are way out of your depth. This is not the way of the traditional PM. If you admit not knowing everything, you demonstrate WEAKNESS and might lose CONTROL. If you have no CONTROL, how can you MANAGE PEOPLE?
Once the question has been laid down for the room, however, the sharing begins. Several of the PMs around the table offer stories of impossible situations they’ve faced. These aren’t the kind of challenges that can be addressed with a change to a contract or a revised scoping doc. These are the “we had it sorted and then the bottom fell out of the world” problems. The ones you couldn’t have seen coming and which leave you with no good options. These are the problems you give talks about at conferences for the next five years.
If you’ve been working in project management for any length of time, you’ve been involved with the meetings that take place at the end of projects. These project reviews or post mortems are generally a wee bit heavy on blame side and a bit light on the learning to improve side. That is, assuming you are actually doing them.
If you are working with Agile, hopefully you are doing retrospectives so that your team can get together to explore how to improve how they work together. Retrospectives are one of the best parts of Agile and a great thing for the team… but this is a little different.
This meeting, which is hosted by Happy Cog is none of the above. It is, however, one of the more interesting characteristics of this segment of the PM population. Digital PM has been around for a while, but only in the past few years has it begun to identify itself as a somewhat separate group. This meeting is full of PMs from different companies. What they have in common is that in one way or another, they all manage projects that are involved with digital media. Some of their projects are less than a month long. Some last more than a year. Some of their clients demand a traditional approach to managing the work. Some demand an Agile approach. The PMs working in these organizations are generally working with fairly small, design centric teams. Their hybrid model is evolving from needing to be able to work a variety of ways, but being able to fully lock into neither. Their agility is their flexibility and this sharing is part of their approach to continuous improvement.
Ten years ago, the project management that existed in this space was simple, basic and practiced by people who were just beginning to cut their teeth. Now it is led by experienced professional project managers and leaders who are schooled up in Agile and waterfall and are collaborating on hybrid tools and techniques that allow them to leverage the best of both. Their pragmatic, collaborative, framework agnostic approach to finding the best way to work with the team and deliver for the client is an exciting and emerging thing.
PhilaPM is organized by Brett Harned, Brenna Heaps, Sloan Miller, and Justin Handler. The group has evolved to the point where they are now working developing a new logo, name and website. Until that happens, you can find them here - http://philamade.com/
If you aren’t from Philly, but do work in digital media or if you are just a PM who could use a little inspiration, you may want to check out some of the following…
Groups in the US and CanadaAustin http://www.meetup.com/Digital-PM-Meetup-Austin/
NYC http://dpmconnect.com and http://www.meetup.com/projectmgmt-72/
Groups in EMEALondon, UK http://www.meetup.com/london-digital-project-managers/
Manchester, UK http://www.meetup.com/Northern-Digital-PM/
Groups in ASIAPACMelbourne Digital Project Managers http://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-Digital-Project-Management/
Sydney Digital Project Managers http://www.meetup.com/Sydney-Digital-Project-Management/
At the DigitalPM 2013 Summit, Rachel Gertz gave a presentation called “Your Clients Matter, So Put Your Team First”. During the presentation she made the case that if you really care about giving the client your best, the most important thing you can do is make sure that the people who create the stuff you give to the client are well cared for. Deep with the Servant Leadership is this one.
Rachel’s approach to project management is heavy on the empathy, individuals and interactions
At DigitalPM 2013 I had the chance to meet Dan Brown, who is a founder and principal at Eight Shapes, a Washington D.C. based user experience consulting firm. Dan is also the author of Communicating Design and Designing Together and at the conference he facilitated a session using a game called Surviving Design Projects that he developed to help improve communication with design on projects where there is conflict.
In the interview we discuss Dan’s perspective on the value Design brings to the team and how we can improve our interaction with them. Dan also shares his thoughts on the challenges facing the role of project management in the digital space.
One of my lightbulb moments during this conversation was that in many ways, it seems as though the design side of the house and the agile software side of the house are headed down the street in the same direction, but on opposite sides of the street. It raises the question of when/how there will be a convergence in how the two sides approach their work.