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Topics: Career Development, Communications Management, Talent Management
When "User Stories" take on a different meaning.
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We all recognize the power of user stories in defining features user natural language; however, those artifacts are quickly consumed and forgotten. As seasoned project managers know, there’s another form of “User Stories” whose artifact cannot be forgotten because it either 1) left our jaw in a locked state for hours, 2) caused us to pretend “that didn’t happen” or 3) had us belly laughing to the point of needing medical attention – of course once we left the room. I think you get the point.

When you sit down at lunch or dinner with a fellow project manager, stories naturally start to flow. The user story may have you as the principle character, or it may be something you observed, but ALL the stories are respectful and purposed to show the interesting and fun part of project management. So, step up to the community lunch table, and share some stories on the “lighter side” – after all, there’s a reason why we love our profession – it’s the people we come in contact with!
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As a new PM driving an enterprise package selection project, we started our reviews and were engaging the sales and engineering teams for the different systems. The first vendor came, and of course, they took us out to lunch – a very nice Italian restaurant.

I was very focused on continuing the technical conversation and wanted to impress my management who was also at the table. When our meals came, I was jabbering away and someone said, you better start eating or your food is going to get cold. So, as if I had never eaten Italian before, I cut into my manicotti with my fork (still talking) and started bringing it to my mouth, not recognizing the attached string of cheese, which was the consistency of a rubber band. I got it about three quarters to my mouth and the rubber-band cheese snapped my morsel of food back to my plate hitting a pool of red sauce.

At that point, a perfect arc of red sauce sprayed the entire table and every member of the vendors team had sauce on their face and of course their expense suits. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this approach as a technique in vendor negotiations – but this incident (which I was never allowed to forget) actually broke down some barriers we were having with this vendor and they eventually won the bid.

Fortunately, I only needed to make this “fork user error” one time in my career. What are some of your stories?
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Long, long time ago. When I was just growing out of my grasshopper stage I was made the task lead for the government project. We were just a five member team. Half the work was predictable, I'd been keep metrics and it was very each to budget the work. The other Half was a SharePoint customization. We were already having trouble with it, and it was a FFP task order. I was developing the budget for it and presented it to management three tiers up (I did say this was an FFP). I added a 20% reserve to that section of the task. My boss's, boss's boss didn't want me to do that. I said we needed to or we'd go in the hole and I did not want mud in my face. We got into a shouting match (he's 6'4" and I'm 5' so that must have been interesting to watch). Everyone left the room, but at the end of the day I won. Six months later that same boss came to me and told me I was right. So stick to your guns.
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1 reply by George Freeman
Jul 12, 2019 9:45 AM
George Freeman
...
Hi Kent,

It’s not easy standing ground to upper management on principle - great job and a good story!

It reminds me of my first aggressive (I mean, challenge-based) conversation I had with upper management as a grasshopper PM. It was my first international videoconference and we were discussing a potential collaborative project (North America and Europe). About half-way through the conversation, the upper management PM in Europe started aggressively advocating that they would drive the project and didn’t need a PM in North America. From which, I started challenging him and of course voices started getting raised. Evidently (without me even noticing), I started leaning towards the camera speaking with my hands and not just my mouth. The next thing I know, our CIO grabs the back of my collar and “pulls me back” as evidently, I started lifting out of my chair.

Fortunately, our CIO had our back and although we didn’t have a collaborative international project, we did have our own successful implementation. Lessons learned from this attempted collaborative effort allowed the next opportunity to succeed - a story for a different time.
Network:22060



Thank you for sharing
...
2 replies by George Freeman and Stéphane Parent
Jul 12, 2019 9:02 AM
Stéphane Parent
...
No story of your own to share, Abolfazl?
Jul 12, 2019 3:29 PM
George Freeman
...
Abolfazl, give us a story - we all have them - feel free to embellish it a bit if you want.

Anyone else? Think of this as PM story time. Every once in a while, we can have a thread that is not purely process related.
Network:98136



I remember starting a new project. My boss joined us on the client site that week. When the team went out for supper, one evening, my boss starting talking about this smoker he had purchased. He explained how he had smoked meat, fish and cheese. At one point he stated "I will smoke anything". Everyone went silent until our boss said "You guys will never let me forget this..." Then we all erupted in laughter.
Network:98136



Jul 12, 2019 8:43 AM
Replying to Abolfazl Yousefi Darestani
...
Thank you for sharing
No story of your own to share, Abolfazl?
Network:5390



Jul 12, 2019 8:20 AM
Replying to Kent Gladstone
...
Long, long time ago. When I was just growing out of my grasshopper stage I was made the task lead for the government project. We were just a five member team. Half the work was predictable, I'd been keep metrics and it was very each to budget the work. The other Half was a SharePoint customization. We were already having trouble with it, and it was a FFP task order. I was developing the budget for it and presented it to management three tiers up (I did say this was an FFP). I added a 20% reserve to that section of the task. My boss's, boss's boss didn't want me to do that. I said we needed to or we'd go in the hole and I did not want mud in my face. We got into a shouting match (he's 6'4" and I'm 5' so that must have been interesting to watch). Everyone left the room, but at the end of the day I won. Six months later that same boss came to me and told me I was right. So stick to your guns.
Hi Kent,

It’s not easy standing ground to upper management on principle - great job and a good story!

It reminds me of my first aggressive (I mean, challenge-based) conversation I had with upper management as a grasshopper PM. It was my first international videoconference and we were discussing a potential collaborative project (North America and Europe). About half-way through the conversation, the upper management PM in Europe started aggressively advocating that they would drive the project and didn’t need a PM in North America. From which, I started challenging him and of course voices started getting raised. Evidently (without me even noticing), I started leaning towards the camera speaking with my hands and not just my mouth. The next thing I know, our CIO grabs the back of my collar and “pulls me back” as evidently, I started lifting out of my chair.

Fortunately, our CIO had our back and although we didn’t have a collaborative international project, we did have our own successful implementation. Lessons learned from this attempted collaborative effort allowed the next opportunity to succeed - a story for a different time.
Network:5390



Jul 12, 2019 8:43 AM
Replying to Abolfazl Yousefi Darestani
...
Thank you for sharing
Abolfazl, give us a story - we all have them - feel free to embellish it a bit if you want.

Anyone else? Think of this as PM story time. Every once in a while, we can have a thread that is not purely process related.

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