What can I do to stick to processes when I don’t have buy in from project leads?

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Your first role as project manager can feel overwhelming. You’re trying to get to grips with processes and juggling new deadlines, not to mention building a rapport with stakeholders and team members. There are plenty of places in which a spanner can be thrown in the works. You’re thrown in the deep end, and sometimes it can barely feel like you’re staying afloat. And some water is deeper than others, as this Reddit thread shows.

The dilemma:

“I am 23, and I interned at a startup this spring in another city…The [project manager] left in the beginning...I used the opportunity to insert myself as much as I can into their operations…I ended up doing such a kickass job that I got a job offer to take on the [project manager] role for the team full time, and started this month.

“So far, feedback has been no less than excellent from the team and company, new and old folks…My anxiety now is with two project leads and my messages with the CEO. The first project lead is doing their own thing. They loathe processes and don’t want to use our [project management] software…They’ve been delayed in their deliverables, and I’ve pushed and negotiated with our external partners for flexibility and to sync with their schedules. 

“I have another project lead who’s been delaying deliverables but since they’re the owner of the subsidiary they work under, I can’t say much and their interactions are out of my visibility. Feels like the ball is never in my court and when it is its being thrown face first.

“What can I do better to improve or make sure I continue to stick to the processes even if I don’t have the buy in from a project lead or two?”

Posted by u/BabyPM on the Project Manager subreddit.

The responses:

 The original poster (OP) u/BabyPM’s long missive was met with much sympathy from other posters. “Sounds like you’re doing fine and are two weeks into a new job,” says u/TheLlamasRevengeDeux. “Listen to the CEO and when your manager gets back work with them on approaches with the challenging team lead.” 

 was worried that if they told the CEO or their manager where the problems lie, it would seem like they were pointing fingers. Several commenters, including u/RB058 and u/late_awakening, explain that they shouldn’t view it like that. “Whatever happens, pointing fingers is also a job of project manager,” says the latter. “Don’t be afraid to say this to your manager if someone is trying to not follow the process…Don’t try to impress anyone. Just do your job and they will get impressed automatically.” 

“Something I’ve read on this sub recently: as [project managers] we don’t bring good news or bad news. We just bring news,” adds u/RB058. “Best thing I’ve heard in a long time!”

Poster u/awillshire sums up the OP’s dilemma very neatly: “From all that you've said it sounds like you're doing a great job! I've been [project managing] for over 15 years and met a lot of PM's who don't have the drive that you do! Couple of things to remember:

  • It's never bad to escalate an issue upwards, as long as it warrants the attention of your managers (your project constraints will guide you as to what is your turf and what needs to go higher)
  • As PM's we don't have control of the people on our team, as much as we might like to. We can set their boundaries and their deliverables but we need to step back and let them roll with it

“There will always be some push and shove on every project - if you get concerned about a particular deliverable then remember to check back to the project critical path. But seriously – you're smashing it!” 

u/a_quiet_mind echoes this sentiment: “If it doesn't work out, they're crazy. And we're hiring.”

Brought to you by Project journal.
Mark Rowland

Posted by Mark Rowland on 4th Sep 2019

About the Author

Mark Rowland is a senior writer on the Project editorial team. He has worked as a business journalist and editor for 15 years, and has won awards for his writing and editing. He has also worked in project and product management, overseeing the launch and continuous development of new websites and publications. Project is the official journal of the Association for Project Management (APM).

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