How to get your geek to love you

I’ve done some of these before. I did my week of GeekTraining tidbits (1, 2, 3). Today, it’s some stuff for project managers. The title is different depending on the company (or even within the same company). Here, they used to be called project managers, and now they’re producers. The name’s been changed about ten times without the job function moving at all. Being a project manager is a pretty crappy job, as far as I can tell. You end up as everyone’s dumping point for bad news, demands, requests, problems, gripes, requirements, schedules, conflicts and slips. You don’t get the thrill of building something, much credit if it’s successfull, but a lot of blame if it fails or comes in late.

I won’t deal with project management as it relates to dealing with business folks, because I don’t know much about it. I do know how to deal with geeks, because I am one, and have to deal with project managers of varying talent levels all day, every day. Here are some of my observations, gathered from my three years in my current position:

Good Project Managers: Bad Project Managers:
understand, at least at a high level, the technology involved in a project. They understand acronyms, implementation timelines and relative complexity. constantly remind the geeks how stupid they are by asking the same question several times in the same meeting, constantly answer questions with blank stares and decide certain tasks are easy because “it didn’t sound hard to me”.
provide a buffer between business folks and geeks, translating businessSpeak into real requirements and providing effective communication between the two groups. forget to tell the geeks about requirements until the last minute and refuse to stand up to business folks when the business folks give unreasonable timelines or demands.
keep track of each step of the project. A good project manager knows that person A from design is going to be late, and therefore, geek B needs to know that work won’t be coming until later, and then communicates the slip to the business so they can readjust their schedule. do their best to avoid being the bearer of bad news, and conveniently ignore slips by other groups while still expecting the geeks to make up for everyone else by completing their work in less time than they agreed to.
are friendly and develop good working relationships with each party. This goes a long way to making everyone do their best work. When a requirement becomes a request instead of a demand, everyone is more likely to accomodate it. are antagonistic and think the best way to get people to do their job is to constantly nag them, stand over their shoulder, speak for them in meetings and set schedules without consultation. They’re my favorites.

There are more, I’m sure, but this is all I can come up with at the moment.

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