“Step into your engineer’s shoes”
Below is a common scenario that a project manager may encounter and how effective communication can assist a situation gone bad and turn the situation around.
Scene: PM walks into engineer’s office while they are working.
PM: “Hey Engineer! Why haven’t you completed the stress calculations assigned to you last week?”
Engineer (stops working): “What calculations?”
PM: “The stress calculations on the widget?”
Engineer: “Uh, nobody asked me to do any calculations.”
PM: “We covered the widget delivery dates in our weekly status meeting, which needs calculations. You should know what is required to deliver the widget.”
Engineer (begins typing on the keyboard): -No response-
PM: “When are you going to be done with the widget calculations?!?!?”
Engineer (In a non-committing tone): “Well, I have a lot of other tasks that need to be completed. I can try to have it to you next week.”
PM: “Next week???”
Engineer (continues typing/working): “That is the best that I can do.”
End Scene: PM leave the room frustrated.
What went wrong in the previous scenario? While the answer may be obvious that the PM and the Engineer weren’t effectively communicating, you must also understand where the communication breakdown started in order to resolve the situation and ultimately get better results. The PM started off by questioning in the engineer about a task without respecting the space of the engineer. Then the PM continued to question the status of the work that the engineer wasn’t aware of. This turned into disengagement followed by misestimation and finally ended with dismissal.
Let’s look at it from another approach.
Scene: PM sends an email to engineer regarding the status of the calculations.
Good afternoon. Could you assist me quickly and provide a status of the stress calculations for the widget that is expected to finish this week?
Scene: The next day after no response. PM casually walks into the engineers office to follow-up.
PM: “Hi Engineer.”
Engineer: “Hi PM.”
PM: “I was stopping by to check if you saw the email I sent you yesterday regarding the widget calculations.”
Engineer: “Sorry, I forgot to respond to you. I am not sure what calculations you are referencing.”
PM: “The widget we were discussing during last status meeting requires stress calculations. This task is on the critical path and any slippage will impact the critical items. To stay on schedule we need to have these calculations within the next 2 days.”
Engineer: “Oh, ok. I was not aware. I can try to get them completed by then.”
By modifying the approach with the engineer the PM was more effective in accomplishing the goal. Even if the engineer does not complete the task on time, continuous effective communication will increase team member engagement and the rate of project success. Point to remember is the individual activities make up the schedule but the team members are the ones doing the work. If you respect your team they will respect your schedule.