You may have noticed that my rate of posting has declined this year, and this month in particular. That’s because over the past year, my work priorities have expanded (well, maybe shifted is a better term) to include a lot of things that don’t necessarily have to do with spam. Instead, they have more to do with messaging.
Anyhow, as I drive projects forward (or try to drive them forward, if the feedback from my latest review is at all accurate), there are a number of tricks of the trade that I have discovered are effective for getting things done. Here are a few:
- Technology is good for tracking stuff
In the business software space, Microsoft’s products are excellent. If you need to track stuff, I have found that the holy trinity of tracking are Microsoft Visio, Microsoft Project, and either Excel or our internal bug tracking software (I prefer the latter).
Project is good for tracking timelines, Visio is good for visualizing those timelines and the internal bug tracking software is good for making queries to see the general progress. All of these features should map to each other, kind of like forward/confirmed reverse DNS. If an entry appears in one, it should have a corresponding entry in the other.
Make use of software. It makes your life easier (and replaces lots of sticky tabs).
- No matter how good your writing skills, specifications take forever to get sign off
I used to think I was a pretty good writer. I enjoyed writing technical specs. Of course, in my technical specs, I treat them somewhat like this blog. That means I am quite wordy.
And no matter how thorough you think you are on your first run-through, you will always have to make many updates after your first spec review. I have discovered this to be universally true.
- The first time people read a spec, more often than not, is the spec review I have asked many times for people to be prepared when they come time to review a spec and expect them to review it ahead of time. This never works. I decided that it is something I am just going to have to live with.
- Technology is good for tracking stuff, but personal follow up really is what gets stuff done
This is probably the single most important piece of advice I can give someone working in a technology company. It probably does not relate to traditional business as much because in tech, we are very good at adopting technology to bypass traditional interpersonal communication. That works in a lot of roles, but not as a Program Manager.
This also took me forever to figure out. And it’s probably why I got nailed so badly on my last performance review. No matter how good people are at their jobs, as a Program Manager you need to actually go and physically talk to people about stuff you need to get them to do.
There is no substitute. I use email, I use IM, I use phone (less so for the last one) but popping into and out of people’s offices is the best technique for gaining visibility. If you need people to do something and you find it is slipping in priority or taking too long, go and see them. Don’t email, it doesn’t work as well. Absence most certainly does not make the heart grow fonder, it only slips it down the priority chain.
Don’t assume that people will get to things. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t… but if you assume they will then you will get labeled as being very “hands off” in projects you are working on. Not that I would know, of course…
Anyone else have other management advice?