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Topics: Communications Management, Strategy
Starting a new project function...and staying in the loop
Anonymous
I started at my company 3.5 months ago as the HR Project Manager, a role that did not exist previously. I'm currently managing a variety of HR and org-wide projects that involve multiple executive and manager level stakeholders. I think because the function of PM is new here, I'm often left out of meetings and decisions that affect my projects, only to be updated later on after a lot of work - by both myself and my project teams - about decisions and new directions. Any suggestions on how to encourage high-level, very busy people that having me in on decisions makes everything a lot smoother? I haven't gotten any negative feedback about the process and procedures I've set up so far, but I am wondering if there's any advice out there for someone trying to build a new function.
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One of the things I have started to do is find out what meetings each department has and which of those include project overview. I then ask to be sent a calendar invite to those meetings and explain to them the importance of my understanding the project at that level and the importance of my ability to communicate important information at that level. If there is push back I will cc management in those requests because management typically has buy in to the PM process. Once I was included on that level, key decisions followed naturally.
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In this case, I would try having open and honest conversations regarding your desire to contribute to the project success, your expectations and how you envision project communications to work moving forward. These stakeholders may not understand proper PM methods or may have not received expectations from their management regarding project hierarchy or how to contribute to corporate projects. Unfortunately, side conversations are common even in organizations with official PMO. It takes time for people (especially tenured employees used to old methods) to adjust and change. Think of this transition as a side change management project. Good luck and hope it gets better.
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Your executives might see you more as an administrative assistant who carries out assignments than an integral contributor to the company's operations. Somehow you need to make sure they know you're the latter, and not the former.
Network:26



Hi,

My question to you, do you have a formal buy-in from your key stakeholders or sponsor on this project? If yes, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be vocal about being a part of those important meetings. Even after your voice is not heard, take an alternate route and set up a weekly or bi-weekly cadence with one of those key members on the top.

Sometime people with traditional approach towards project dont follow PM methods. So your persistence on pushing will be the key. You are the project manager and hired to do this job so stick to your responsibilities.
...
2 replies by Adrian Carlogea and Michal Galazka
Aug 31, 2019 11:32 AM
Michal Galazka
...
I do agree with Vijay! If you feel omitted (or any other emotions are with you) than you could take over the initiative, and organize the meetings on topics you need to be involved on your own. Here the key might be the "proactive vs. reactive" thinking style (metaprogram), I'll be writing on next post in few days.
If you want to know the full profile of thinking styles – yours or your team’s, and how it can support you – do not hesitate to contact me directly.
All the best
Aug 31, 2019 12:20 PM
Adrian Carlogea
...
"You are the project manager and hired to do this job so stick to your responsibilities. "

In many companies for internal projects the responsibility of the PM is just to track and report and sometimes escalate. You may say that this is not a real project manager's role and you may be right but this is the reality I think for most PMs in some domains like IT.

PMs may feel more empowered when they are managing projects that deliver to external customers. Here the PM manages the day to day relationship with the external customer so he can have a say in the decision making process.
Network:18



Aug 31, 2019 10:36 AM
Replying to Vijay Kumar
...
Hi,

My question to you, do you have a formal buy-in from your key stakeholders or sponsor on this project? If yes, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be vocal about being a part of those important meetings. Even after your voice is not heard, take an alternate route and set up a weekly or bi-weekly cadence with one of those key members on the top.

Sometime people with traditional approach towards project dont follow PM methods. So your persistence on pushing will be the key. You are the project manager and hired to do this job so stick to your responsibilities.
I do agree with Vijay! If you feel omitted (or any other emotions are with you) than you could take over the initiative, and organize the meetings on topics you need to be involved on your own. Here the key might be the "proactive vs. reactive" thinking style (metaprogram), I'll be writing on next post in few days.
If you want to know the full profile of thinking styles – yours or your team’s, and how it can support you – do not hesitate to contact me directly.
All the best
Network:92



Unfortunately there is often a big discrepancy between the expectations PMs have from their roles and the duties most companies set up for them.

PMs expect management to delegate them a lot of decision power over the resources used in projects so that they can do the best job possible. In reality for most projects management keeps a tight control and expect the PMs mainly to track and report and facilitate meeting between the stakeholders. If you are in one of these companies then you should find another job if you don't like the situation.

Still even if you are not allowed to make decisions you should be invited to the most important meetings where management makes decisions in order for you to better understand what is expected. You should at least be consulted about those decisions so at least you could make recommendations.
Network:92



Aug 31, 2019 10:36 AM
Replying to Vijay Kumar
...
Hi,

My question to you, do you have a formal buy-in from your key stakeholders or sponsor on this project? If yes, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be vocal about being a part of those important meetings. Even after your voice is not heard, take an alternate route and set up a weekly or bi-weekly cadence with one of those key members on the top.

Sometime people with traditional approach towards project dont follow PM methods. So your persistence on pushing will be the key. You are the project manager and hired to do this job so stick to your responsibilities.
"You are the project manager and hired to do this job so stick to your responsibilities. "

In many companies for internal projects the responsibility of the PM is just to track and report and sometimes escalate. You may say that this is not a real project manager's role and you may be right but this is the reality I think for most PMs in some domains like IT.

PMs may feel more empowered when they are managing projects that deliver to external customers. Here the PM manages the day to day relationship with the external customer so he can have a say in the decision making process.
...
1 reply by Vijay Kumar
Aug 31, 2019 12:44 PM
Vijay Kumar
...
Each project defines level of authority of PM at the beginning. One must understand whether s/he is assigned on a project to be a coordinator or a manager irrespective of internal or external projects. So, coordinator or manager, whichever role is assumed, stakeholder management, keeping track of progress and reporting are common responsibilities. Sometimes stakeholders are rigid and thats where a PM must step up the engagements using their interpersonal skills.

For your other point: Although PM’s authority on internal and external projects is a separate matter of discussion, in my opinion sometimes even a PM on projects with external clients too have to work as coordinator. For example a program manager managing multiple projects being a client face but leverage PMs for communication and reporting only. On the other hand side, a PM working on in-house product development in R&D holds full authority. All depends on how you are required to work on a project.
Network:26



Aug 31, 2019 12:20 PM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
...
"You are the project manager and hired to do this job so stick to your responsibilities. "

In many companies for internal projects the responsibility of the PM is just to track and report and sometimes escalate. You may say that this is not a real project manager's role and you may be right but this is the reality I think for most PMs in some domains like IT.

PMs may feel more empowered when they are managing projects that deliver to external customers. Here the PM manages the day to day relationship with the external customer so he can have a say in the decision making process.
Each project defines level of authority of PM at the beginning. One must understand whether s/he is assigned on a project to be a coordinator or a manager irrespective of internal or external projects. So, coordinator or manager, whichever role is assumed, stakeholder management, keeping track of progress and reporting are common responsibilities. Sometimes stakeholders are rigid and thats where a PM must step up the engagements using their interpersonal skills.

For your other point: Although PM’s authority on internal and external projects is a separate matter of discussion, in my opinion sometimes even a PM on projects with external clients too have to work as coordinator. For example a program manager managing multiple projects being a client face but leverage PMs for communication and reporting only. On the other hand side, a PM working on in-house product development in R&D holds full authority. All depends on how you are required to work on a project.
...
1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Aug 31, 2019 1:08 PM
Adrian Carlogea
...
When the project is external the PM is the first point of contact the customer has. So it is guaranteed that all the decisions would go through the PM even if he does not make them. The PM has a lot of opportunities to influence the decision making process in external projects.

In internal projects where there is no real customer the PM may be skipped by the stakeholders as they are working for the same organization and may meet and make decisions without the PM.

Some years ago I worked on an internal project for a very large Australian company and I was told that the PM only manages the project at the financial level and all the work decisions were to be made by me and the users who were actually working on a different team in the same department.

I agree that some PMs working on internal projects may be given full authority but also true is the fact that product development can be done as business as usual without project managers.

I worked as a software developer in a product development engineering department and the work was not done as projects and as such there were no PMs at all. The company also had a software services department that was delivering software to external customers and PMs did work on that department.
Network:92



Aug 31, 2019 12:44 PM
Replying to Vijay Kumar
...
Each project defines level of authority of PM at the beginning. One must understand whether s/he is assigned on a project to be a coordinator or a manager irrespective of internal or external projects. So, coordinator or manager, whichever role is assumed, stakeholder management, keeping track of progress and reporting are common responsibilities. Sometimes stakeholders are rigid and thats where a PM must step up the engagements using their interpersonal skills.

For your other point: Although PM’s authority on internal and external projects is a separate matter of discussion, in my opinion sometimes even a PM on projects with external clients too have to work as coordinator. For example a program manager managing multiple projects being a client face but leverage PMs for communication and reporting only. On the other hand side, a PM working on in-house product development in R&D holds full authority. All depends on how you are required to work on a project.
When the project is external the PM is the first point of contact the customer has. So it is guaranteed that all the decisions would go through the PM even if he does not make them. The PM has a lot of opportunities to influence the decision making process in external projects.

In internal projects where there is no real customer the PM may be skipped by the stakeholders as they are working for the same organization and may meet and make decisions without the PM.

Some years ago I worked on an internal project for a very large Australian company and I was told that the PM only manages the project at the financial level and all the work decisions were to be made by me and the users who were actually working on a different team in the same department.

I agree that some PMs working on internal projects may be given full authority but also true is the fact that product development can be done as business as usual without project managers.

I worked as a software developer in a product development engineering department and the work was not done as projects and as such there were no PMs at all. The company also had a software services department that was delivering software to external customers and PMs did work on that department.
Network:26



I am surprised to hear that product development projects can be done in business as usual mode. If thats hold true then any project can be. For that matters, even SMEs or functional consultants can also complete projects.

I understand that companies often follow methods that suits to their business but in such environment meaning of project management often gets lost in translation. It is imperative to understand that merely handling a client’s engagement is not a project management, there is a methodology behind this.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I should not deviate this thread from the actual topic. Let’s hear out what other folks have to say on it. :)
...
1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Aug 31, 2019 1:57 PM
Adrian Carlogea
...
I don't want to deviate too but I think it is important to detail my work as a software developer in that product development department.

The company had a product for which it was selling licenses to customers, similarly to Microsoft Office for instance. The product development department was fixing defects raised by users and also was adding new features releasing new versions.

The activity was ongoing there was no fixed budged allocated to deliver a set of features defined in a scope of work. Business Analysts were proposing the features they though were needed by the users and the software engineers and architects were implementing them making also the technical decisions.

The department had an operational budget to keep itself working and also pay for software licenses if needed and also for contractors when they were needed (I was contracted). I don't think organizing the work in projects would have made any sense.

Probably software product companies operate as described above without project managers.
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