I don’t need a babysitter.
That’s okay. I’m not a babysitter.
The B-word. Okay, no one likes to be treated like a child, and I hope that’s the crux of you spitting out the B-word with such disdain. But is there really something wrong with looking out for your project? Absolutely not. It’s called Project Governance.
It’s a problem if someone is hovering over you while you are trying to do your work. It’s a problem if someone’s asking you to have something done every five minutes, even after you’ve given them a workable delivery time. That’s called micromanaging. That’s also distrust. But not every inquiry into someone’s work or the timing of a deliverable is micromanaging, and not every question about how things are getting done is distrust. Quite often, it’s governance, and if you’re a project manager, it’s the core of your job.
Here’s a little quiz you can take to find out if you’re good at what you do. I call it…
Governance or governess?
Dan Developer is overseeing a team of coders, who have been working for the past week on a site feature, and have a deadline of 5 PM Thursday to provide a working prototype. It’s Monday afternoon, and you want to be sure that if your team can’t deliver the prototype on time, you reset client expectations as soon as possible. What do you do next?
You’re sitting on a client call with Amy Account Manager to discuss the second of two contracted rounds of revisions to a layout. The client asks to see another design idea for the homepage. Obviously, this is out of scope, and both you and Amy know it, but she’s in charge of the client relationship. Amy tells the client that he can see a new design idea by end of day the following day. How do you proceed?
Gary the Graphics Guy has stopped by your desk to let you know that he’s been asking Clara Copywriter to give him some missing copy for a deliverable, but she hasn’t done it yet. Gary can’t move forward without it. You let Gary know that you’ll look into it and give Clara a call. Clara says that she told Gary that she’s working on it and that the constant interruptions are making it harder for her to get the work done. How do you react? Pick the best answer:
You’re creating an estimate for a project. You’ve asked Dan Developer for input about how many hours it would take to include a specific feature. You’ve given him your best guess, but it’s a highly technical feature and you need him to ensure that it’s correct. Your email to Dan with all the specifics stated that you need to hear from him by the end of the day, and it’s 4:45 PM. What’s your next move?
The bottom line
This is the bottom line: the client commissioned a project, that’s why the team is together and working. The project is not human, and it can’t look around and see where things are and feel good about its own position. It needs a voice, and its voice comes from the project manager. You have to ask the right questions and gather the right information to protect the project and make sure it advances.
Your first priority is the project. It’s not the team, it’s not the client, and it’s not the process. It’s the project. So if you’re not asking questions and making sure things are getting done—governance—you’re not making the project your priority. This isn’t to say that you should protect the project at all costs. Sometimes that’s a dangerous and fruitless priority. It means that if you have a choice to make between knowing what’s going on with your project and making sure your team doesn’t feel like you’re babysitting them, you need to choose the project.
Remember: governance. Not governess.