Monday, August 13, 2007

August 13, 2007 – Fortune Cookie Management

Not far from work is a Chinese buffet that we frequent to celebrate birthdays and any other excuse we can fine. It is called the World Buffet and in order to maintain truth in advertising they throw in French fries, pizza and Hawaiian chicken to give it a more global menu. You can still tell it is a Chinese restaurant, though, because they hand out fortune cookies with the bill.

While listening to everyone read their fortune recently it struck me that these pearls of wisdom applied amazingly well to project management. Here are some from our last visit.

They’ll definitely remember all your efforts. This is more than hopeful wishing. A month or more after turning over a project to another manager they encountered a problem. Evidently the infrastructure partner was claiming that we hadn’t informed them of certain responsibilities. I was able to retrieve emails and minutes showing the discussions and decisions. Keeping records paid off.

On another occasion it took nearly three months before I got the call. Phase 2 of a project was getting ready to go through a Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) audit. The effort had changed hands twice since I left and the new project manager couldn’t find the evidence for the review. I had to think my way back through the SharePoint site layout to talk her to the location. Organizing the approvals and forms before handing over the reins saved her sanity.

Care and attention to the key relationships in your life will pay off. Stakeholder management immediately came to mind when I heard this gem. Understanding their influence levels, expectations, pressures and needs is priceless. You can’t solve needs or reset bad expectations you don’t know about. You will fail to interpret warning signs without comprehending the stakeholders’ points of view.

This fortune also made me think of resource relationships. I’ve seen key resources threaten to leave because they aren’t getting properly care. It really doesn’t take much. One individual is having trouble with immigration paperwork. His frustration is compounded because he can’t get an update on the status. A simple email or phone call to him would clear the air and keep him satisfied.

Step away from the power position for one day. This is a tough one for me. When I attend a meeting I am impressed if there is an agenda and the facilitator effectively directs discussion so we finish on time or even early. If a meeting is spiraling out of control I have to fight the urge to assume ownership.

In the same vein, for your team to grow and mature you can’t assume ownership of their work. When the coding is not getting done, it isn’t your job to step in and write code for them. You may need to negotiate more of their time, find help, apply forceful encouragement, remove barriers or a number of other things, but they are supposed to be the programmers, not you. Stealing that power from them leaves them without a purpose and it leaves you doing everything.

You’ll meet your big cheese today. Okay, this one didn’t make any sense to me.

If it seems the fates are against you today, they probably are. Sometimes it may just be better to go home and try again the next day.

On the back of many fortune cookies are words to help you learn Chinese. I’ve often wondered how many cookies you had to eat to become fluent. The Chinese on this particular paper slip says, “yao xe waon” which translates to “Hopeful.” That seemed appropriate for a project manager that all the fates are against.

By the way, your lucky numbers are 4, 18, 37, 14, 28 and 7.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

my cooke said// It is sometimes better to travel then to arrive.And my lucky numbers was 17, 3, 47, 2 , 21 ,7