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Topics: Scheduling, Talent Management
Do PMs have to be there when the rest of the project team is?

I've encountered this issue on more than one project. I work in software development and the project team expects me to be there working weekends (just like them) to "get the work done."

This isn't an issue of the team running me, but rather one of corporate culture. I don't want to get into a snitty middle-school argument of "I have to work overtime, so do you!" but come on. I put in a significant amount of OT and worked weekends at the beginning of the project and now that we're into crunch time and people have to work weekends (it was a short duration so honestly, they have no choice but to work on the weekend). The team members are starting to become antagonistic and saying things like, "I assume you'll be here this weekend as well?"

Actually, no...I hadn't planned on coming in because I really don't have anything to do that I'm not getting done during working hours now.

Thoughts on this? I can't imagine project teams expect their PMs to be "on call" 24/7 and available for pain-sharing.
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Random immediate responses, offered without editing...

For sense of teamwork, in a small group, yes.

No, if you can clearly communicate to the team why your presence is of no help.

Yes, if you actually can help, or can't defend not being there.

No, for large team in which only a fraction of resources are involved in the crunch (and again, do not really need you.)

Absolutely yes in all circumstances, since a last minute crunch is almost always the result of a failure of project management, and the least you can do is be cheerleader for the performers.

Dear Stacy, when a project team is in a crunch and working over the weekend to meet a deadline, the PM should lead as appropriate for the situation. You say the team members are becoming antagonistic. Might that affect their performance? Is that not your responsibility from a project team management perspective? Would it be too much trouble for you to at least come in for 30 minutes to check on the team, attend to anything they might need help with, and to thank them for their sacrifice. If you need to be there for the entire day, then you should be. If not, then at least make a showing. On a weekend, there could be facilities problems, system availability problems, and other unexpected things that could impact the team's productivity. If so, you could help with that. Or, how about bringing in Chinese food or a dozen Cappuccinos..? Good environments produce good results. Don't let your team work 10 hours without a proper break, nourishment as well as attitude. Perhaps I am old school, but if one of my PMs had a team working in a crunch over the weekend to meet an important deadline for my company and that PM didn’t bother to come in for a mere 30 minutes, I would be a little bit unhappy and would invite that PM to meet with me. Hope this helps. – Mark Perry, VP of Customer Care, BOT International
I agree with you Mark Perry, being a PM is not just to be responsible for the work it is also that responsibility of yours from the start to the end. If it is a last minute cruch which is faced it could have been handled intially itself to avoid the OT on a weekend. I think the project planning has a reveiewed over and over again to know the status every week and once we are behind the scheduling cover that up in parts and not stress the team in the last.

Being a part of the team as rightly mentioned by Mark Perry it would increase the team's moral to work and also to make them feel that it is a team work for which next time they would understand the criticality of the work and they would suggest whether your importance would be there or not.

Shared sacrifice would go a long way to having the team respect you as their PM. I would bring in lunch, snacks, and offer to help in any way I can.

My team is in another country so I can't be there physically but I would stay logged on the entire time in case I can do anything.

As a Project Manager, one of my responsibilities (some would say the hardest one) is to build a group of people with different backrounds, skills, experience and priorities into a project team motivated to achieve the goals of whatever project they are assigned to. I find that face-time in the initial stages of a project is very important to building good team communication. When project activities really get rolling, staying in touch and available is more important than actual face-time.
I also firmly believe in "eating my own dog food". I would not ask any team member to do something I would not be willing to do myself, so when my team stays late, I stay late, via telecon if I cannot be in the same physical location.
I believe that vigilant contact with your team, support of their activities, and a reliable guiding hand that makes the "presence" of a Project Manager, not their physical location.

Some years ago I learnt a hard lesson on a project when I didn't support those working excessive hours to solve a problem. There was nothing I could do technically to help, but I wasn't "there for them" to give the moral support they needed. I was severely hauled over the coals by my GM. Since then I have always made my presence felt - even if only to bring in coffees or sit around for 30 minutes or so to show my appreciation. It ALWAYS pays off in team happiness and togetherness, and the PM gains respect for both the current and next project(s).

Although you have already received similar responses, I feel strongly enough about this to reiterate.
Yes, you should find a way to be there when your team is working long, hard hours. Unless you wish to foster the image of being an elitist, ivory tower type manager. Some people do purposefully project this image.
But my personal experience has been that if you want to have a good working relationship with your team you need to show that you are willing to support them.
So... you do not want to hang around and consistently look over their shoulders, but it is a good idea to be available, manage by walking around and let them know you are there to act as a sounding board or run interference as-needed. Supplying breakfast, lunch or dinner is a good way to be around, be involved - yet not get in the way.
If you are around, your team is more apt to keep you in the loop. If you are consisently not around, they may develop a ' Well she is never here, so I doubt she cares' type of attitude.
And what are they to think if they work for 12 hours a day for someone who is consistenly only around for 8?
oooh, most definitely be there with the team. I've seen what happens to PMs who go to bed while the team is up working all night. It's not pretty....
Stacy, you got problems

One, as an answer whether the PM has to be there on the weekends, yes. Of course unless there is a special or personal reason otherwise. You have to lead from the top. This does not mean that your boss has to be there as well or the CEO up the chain. The reason why is below.

The second reason is that you have morale problems. Your authority is being undermined as the team is questioning your authority by questioning your physical presence. You might wanna look at what you are projecting to your team. A review of your soft skills, some one-on-one conversations might help you.

I would definitely be there with them, maybe not for the full time, but at least show up, bring pizza or snacks or coffee, ask them if you can do anything to help. Thank them profusely before leaving.
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"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

- George Bernard Shaw



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