The "Project" "Manager"



  • In a previous life, there was once a small company.

    This small company had, over the past few years, signed many new clients at rates far below what their competitors were offering while simultaneously promising the moon to said clients. As one might expect, this overselling caused the two-and-a-half full-time developers and two-and-a-half developer/tech support staff to become swamped both with daily firefighting and feature backlog.

    There wasn't an issue tracking system that the entire company used, and it wouldn't have mattered, since whatever any of the developers was doing at any given moment could be trumped by a task assigned by a member of the C-suite, or by a tech support call with the latest fire from Big Customer Q to be put out immediately.

    Management began to recognize a problem, as the company was developing a certain "reputation" among its clients. Something had to be done. The company needed someone to triage all the incoming work, assign it to the developers, ensure it got done in a timely fashion, and be the point of contact to the customers. The company needed... a Project Manager!

    With the help of the employees' networks, a suitable candidate for Project Manager was brought in, interviewed, and hired. The candidate had the following qualifications:

    • "Good" with people
    • A friend of the Director of Sales
    • An employee at one of the customers, meaning a slight understanding of the business involved
    • Current job responsibilities roughly equivalent to a receptionist, so paying about 1/3 to 1/2 of market value for a Project Manager would be acceptable
    • Zero experience managing a software team

    This new "PM" was put to work immediately, answering the phone and keeping the relentless hordes of customers at bay. She was pretty good at logging incoming issues and following up with the developers and customers; however, any authority she had in prioritizing issues was frequently overridden by the C-suite, so she had to make a lot of calls to customers at the end of each day telling them, sadly, that their issue was not yet resolved. Things more or less continued as normal.

    A few weeks later, the stresses of the position were starting to get to her. "Intertrode needs this new report done by COB today, and both Ryan and Eric are busy working on other things," she ranted. Being that she, Ryan, Eric, and I were all sitting within 15 feet of each other in this open-plan office, I figured it was time to cure her of this notion that she had been given an achievable goal.

    "I'm sure that what they're working on also needs to go out by COB today. It takes as long as it takes. If they can't get it done today, then it will have to wait," I said.

    "But then Initech also needs this bug fixed by tomorrow afternoon, and they've been breathing down my neck about it all week!"

    "The laws of physics mean that it's going to take a certain amount of time to implement fixes to these issues." That didn't seem to console her much, and in a few minutes, she went over to the Director of Sales' office to continue her ranting, this time using a lot more... colorful language about how screwed up the situation was. Given that that office was within earshot, it made for amusing listening.

    After she had left for the day, the CEO came by to ask how well our PM was working out for us. After a brief discussion, he came to the conclusion that it was time to let her go.

    A week later, we had a "going-away" party for her.

    We broke our "Project" "Manager!"



  • This is similar to a previous life here too. But after the "PM"s "party" a few of the developers left, never to be replaced, with the entire company eventually making more money selling Vietnamese sandwiches than making software! (True story)


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @Zemm said:

    a few of the developers left, never to be replaced, with the entire company eventually making more money selling Vietnamese sandwiches than making software!

    Why do you have the happy ending for his story?

    Filed Under: Are you writing frontpage articles by chance? :trollface:



  • @Groaner said:

    however, any authority she had in prioritizing issues was frequently overridden by the C-suite

    I wonder which is worse:

    1. The C-suite follow chain-of-command to send tasks to "the PM" but still demand things be done immediately.
    2. The situation as is in the story.

    @Zemm said:

    But after the "PM"s "party" a few of the developers left, never to be replaced

    That's common move.

    The company's reputation goes downhill, the management does not get a clue on how to fix the base of problems, the developers are always busy without good reason. You'd leave if you can.


  • SockDev

    If you have access to the Lounge, you can see what happens in case 1.


  • Fake News

    @Groaner said:

    We broke our "Project" "Manager!"

    What? She was just too smart to keep her head down and got fired, I can't see how that counts as broken.


  • area_deu

    @Groaner said:

    After she had left for the day, the CEO came by to ask how well our PM was working out for us. After a brief discussion, he came to the conclusion that it was time to let her go.

    So why didn't you tell him she was doing a great job and that all problems were the fault of the CEO and his other fucktard buddies?

    This is possibly the biggest gripe I have with my staff members. How the fuck are we supposed to make better decisions if everybody keeps lying and yea-saying?


  • area_pol

    @ChrisH said:

    So why didn't you tell him she was doing a great job and that all problems were the fault of the CEO and his other fucktard buddies?

    Because then you are the source of company's problems, obviously. Someone must be guilty and sure as hell it's not the CEO or one of his fucktard buddies.

    @ChrisH said:

    This is possibly the biggest gripe I have with my staff members. How the fuck are we supposed to make better decisions if everybody keeps lying and yea-saying?

    Truth makes no impression on managerial morons.



  • Don't forget situation 3.

    The PM is C level management, and also involved in sales and bidding. As a result they are too busy to project manage properly and just dump stuff out when developers ask for work.

    Its like not having a project manager, except stuff doesn't come direct from clients. Instead you get the part that the C level PM remembers from his phone call 2 weeks ago, or if you are lucky, an email chain with the note "read from bottom". Of course, you can't talk directly with the client to clarify the ball of purple monkey dishwasher, so what you inevitably deliver isn't what they wanted or need...



  • @Groaner said:

    •"Good" with people
    A friend of the Director of Sales
    An employee at one of the customers, meaning a slight understanding of the business involved
    Current job responsibilities roughly equivalent to a receptionist, so paying about 1/3 to 1/2 of market value for a Project Manager would be acceptable
    Zero experience managing a software team

    To be fair to her: I don't think that any of this matters - you could have put the Fermi-equivalent of a project manager into this slot and he wouldn't have fared any better.



  • Agreed but "the PM" mentioned in the story is clearly not a member C level management. :stuck_out_tongue:



  • A collegue of mine had a good story about a project manager. He didn't work directly for him but a friend of his did. When he saw what he had promised he laughed for two minutes solid. He may as well of promised to build a mechanised unicorn(not too far from the reality of it sadly). Oddly enough upper management who are usually quite canny about these things bought it hook line and stinker. Eventually the penny dropped and before being called to account he just vanished. Almost literally. Linkden, Facefuck, email, and phone calls all went unanswered. He had moved flat too apparently so when someone rolled up there was a younger couple living there. This been actually quite a serious situation, him haven disappeared off the face of the earth, the gardai had to be called. They did find him but being of adult age and not in any offical legally awkard entaglement with the company told na gardai to not pass on his contact details. Nothing was heard about him since except that the project went to be a web type project instead of a stand application.

    I have serious doubts about his story but it's funny to bring out at office parties or when management get caught in the fireing line.

    *edit I do have one where the stress of a project caused a manager to break down and leave work for a few months but I don't like telling it. I actually quite liked him and he was very fair.



  • @ChrisH said:

    This is possibly the biggest gripe I have with my staff members. How the fuck are we supposed to make better decisions if everybody keeps lying and yea-saying?

    If like to live in this mythical land where you can tell your boss that they make bad decisions. In the tell world, that gets you fired.


  • area_deu

    @RevCurtisP said:

    If like to live in this mythical land where you can tell your boss that they make bad decisions.

    It's called "small company in Germany"-land.

    In the tell world, that gets you fired.
    You need to stop working for idiots.


  • @RevCurtisP said:

    IfI'd like to live in this mythical land where you can tell your boss that they make bad decisions. In the tellreal world, that gets you fired.

    From a recent ticket I've submitted:

    Unless [the problem of checking into the wrong branch/not checking into all the requisite branches] is yet another case of having too many open/discarded branches lying around causing confusion for everyone...

    Ok - it was a bit subtle (well, not really to the initiated,) but it's a continuation of a long-held opinion I have of which my line manager is well aware, and he's responsible for the mess.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Nocha said:

    an email chain with the note "read from bottom".

    Man, I hate those. I actually got one from a client a couple days ago. The top didn't actually ask a question or state a problem, though.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @ChrisH said:

    So why didn't you tell him she was doing a great job and that all problems were the fault of the CEO and his other fucktard buddies?

    I think this is what @RevCurtisP was trying to say:



  • @Zemm said:

    with the entire company eventually making more money selling Vietnamese sandwiches than making software

    The Volkswagen of the software world!



  • Except your PM was 100% right and you developers should have been backing her up. Firing her? Jesus.

    This story isn't funny, it makes me angry.



  • @ChrisH said:

    So why didn't you tell him she was doing a great job and that all problems were the fault of the CEO and his other fucktard buddies?

    Seriously!!!

    @ChrisH said:

    This is possibly the biggest gripe I have with my staff members. How the fuck are we supposed to make better decisions if everybody keeps lying and yea-saying?

    What bothers me so much is how comfortable this office is with "we've always done it that way", to the point where they hired a person specifically to improve the process, she does her job without (as far as I can tell) any fault, and then you fire her!

    Goddamned that's awful.

    @MrL said:

    Because then you are the source of company's problems, obviously. Someone must be guilty and sure as hell it's not the CEO or one of his fucktard buddies.

    So be guilty. I'd rather be honest and guilty than fuck over some new hire who's just doing her job to the best of her ability. Even if she got fired anyway, at least I'd be able to retain my self-respect.



  • @DogsB said:

    A collegue of mine had a good story about a project manager. He didn't work directly for him but a friend of his did.

    You've lost me in the second sentence. There's at least 4 people* involved in this story, none of which have names.

    • ) Colleague, Mine, Project Manager, Friend of His.

    So when I reach here:

    @DogsB said:

    When he saw what he had promised he laughed for two minutes solid.

    Not only do I not know who these "he's* are, but I'm not even sure how many "he's" are being talked about in this sentence. (Is it one person mentioned three times? Or two people, one of which is promising and the other laughing?)



  • @RevCurtisP said:

    In the tell world, that gets you fired.

    So fucking GET fired. Don't just wet yourself in fear and huddle in the corner, have some fucking courage.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @blakeyrat said:

    Not only do I not know who these "he's* are

    The way that probably makes the most sense for the sentence to read is "when friend saw what PM did, friend laughed".

    HTH HAND.

    In the real world when people around you speak like that, what do you do, swat them with rolled-up newspapers to teach them they're :doing_it_wrong:?



  • @blakeyrat said:

    What bothers me so much is how comfortable this office is with "we've always done it that way", to the point where they hired a person specifically to improve the process, she does her job without (as far as I can tell) any fault, and then you fire her!

    The way I read it, she didn't really succeed at improving the process. I wouldn't blame her for that, of course, since it was clear that she never had the skills or experience to be a project manager for a software shop. Looks like it was a terrible decision to hire her for that job in the first place.



  • @Dragnslcr said:

    The way I read it, she didn't really succeed at improving the process.

    How could she have? She wasn't empowered to.

    It'd be like hiring a guy to move a truck, but not giving him the keys to the truck, then firing him because he asked for the keys. In any other field, this would be obviously a ludicrous and terrible thing. But in IT, I guess, people just laugh and shrug it off?

    @Dragnslcr said:

    I wouldn't blame her for that, of course, since it was clear that she never had the skills or experience to be a project manager for a software shop.

    Clear based on what? Nothing in the story indicates that.

    @Dragnslcr said:

    Looks like it was a terrible decision to hire her for that job in the first place.

    True; but not for the reason you think.


  • I survived the hour long Uno hand

    @Groaner said:

    She was pretty good at logging incoming issues and following up with the developers and customers; however, any authority she had in prioritizing issues was frequently overridden by the C-suite, so she had to make a lot of calls to customers at the end of each day telling them, sadly, that their issue was not yet resolved.

    @Dragnslcr said:

    she never had the skills

    Conclusion does not follow. Looks like she did a pretty good job when she was allowed to, but her job kept being undone by the C-level execs.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    How could she have? She wasn't empowered to.

    That's true. An experienced project manager would have quickly realized that they weren't being allowed to be the project manager, and they would likely quit pretty quickly. This argument would require a lot of speculation, though, so it's difficult to say what was going on in her mind.

    @blakeyrat said:

    @Dragnslcr said:
    I wouldn't blame her for that, of course, since it was clear that she never had the skills or experience to be a project manager for a software shop.

    Clear based on what? Nothing in the story indicates that.

    Huh?

    @Groaner said:

    The candidate had the following qualifications:

    • "Good" with people
    • A friend of the Director of Sales
    • An employee at one of the customers, meaning a slight understanding of the business involved
    • Current job responsibilities roughly equivalent to a receptionist, so paying about 1/3 to 1/2 of market value for a Project Manager would be acceptable
    • Zero experience managing a software team

    The only thing there that helps in any meaningful way is having a small amount of domain knowledge. Unless you count being good at answering the phone.



  • I dunno, "logging incoming issues" sounds more like data entry than project management.

    I'm certainly not meaning to judge her and say that she's a terrible human being. She may have the innate talent to eventually become a good project manager (obviously I don't know her personally), but experience is also very important. It seems pretty clear to me that she was underqualified for the job that she was supposed to do.


  • I survived the hour long Uno hand

    @Dragnslcr said:

    "logging incoming issues" sounds more like data entry than project management.

    How do you figure? In companies without strong QA departments, it tends to fall on the PM to manage testing and defects, triaging them, prioritizing them, and getting them on the schedule. When you couple that with the implication that she attempted to prioritize and schedule work but got overridden, she sounds fine, especially for a newbie.

    Experience I'll grant you she lacked, but I feel like developers often disparage the work that PMs do and anyone who does them without cause.



  • Funnily enough I don't care enough to clarify the story for you. I guess you're doomed to never understanding a story that is more than likely nine tenths fictional.



  • @Dragnslcr said:

    I dunno, "logging incoming issues" sounds more like data entry than project management.

    It's a hell of a lot more than they were doing before. Read the OP again.

    @Dragnslcr said:

    She may have the innate talent to eventually become a good project manager (obviously I don't know her personally), but experience is also very important. It seems pretty clear to me that she was underqualified for the job that she was supposed to do.

    I'm not saying she's holy perfect project manager from heaven. I'm saying there's nothing in the story that indicates she wasn't. There's no action she takes different than one the holy perfect project manager from heaven would take.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    So here at WtfCorp, we have two lovely ladies in exactly this same situation. But we defend and protect them jealously (because if they aren't taking the shit for us, we'd be be taking the shit).

    Both of them came in with minimal skills (both from low level retail) and one of them just quit to start a real PM position elsewhere, having used her downtime to study for and pass the PMP exam. The other is currently working towards that.

    Apparently having a negative contrast to what you're learning is helpful.



  • @Yamikuronue said:

    How do you figure? In companies without strong QA departments, it tends to fall on the PM to manage testing and defects, triaging them, prioritizing them, and getting them on the schedule. When you couple that with the implication that she attempted to prioritize and schedule work but got overridden, she sounds fine, especially for a newbie.

    True. I may have misread how well she did all the other tasks.

    @Yamikuronue said:

    Experience I'll grant you she lacked, but I feel like developers often disparage the work that PMs do and anyone who does them without cause.

    Yup, definitely. I'm sure I've been guilty of it myself sometimes. I suspect it's because it seems like project managers can be bad at doing their jobs and still get raises and promotions by playing politics with the managers above them. Of course, that can happen in any job, but I think there's a perception (whether or not it's true, I honestly don't know) that project managers can get away with it more often than engineers and developers.

    Good project managers should be highly valued and appreciated. After all, they're the reason that you can sit there and write code (a.k.a. post on WTDWTF) all day without having to deal with managing stuff.



  • @Zemm said:

    with the entire company eventually making more money selling Vietnamese sandwiches than making software! (True story)

    To be fair, Vietnamese sandwiches are the bomb.



  • @Yamikuronue said:

    @Dragnslcr said:
    "logging incoming issues" sounds more like data entry than project management.

    How do you figure? In companies without strong QA departments, it tends to fall on the PM to manage testing and defects, triaging them, prioritizing them, and getting them on the schedule. When you couple that with the implication that she attempted to prioritize and schedule work but got overridden, she sounds fine, especially for a newbie.

    Experience I'll grant you she lacked, but I feel like developers often disparage the work that PMs do and anyone who does them without cause.

    I'd probably be more likely to respect my PM if I didn't have to explain to him (a former developer for Oracle) how Oracle Workspaces worked and how we had the parent-child relationships set up.

    3 times. During the same meeting.

    ...I'm not convinced he knew what I was talking about when the meeting ended.

    Needless to say, this was related to a bug that our DBA was working with Oracle on related to doing exports between our DB servers. I was only involved because I was telling said DBA which workspaces we could safely remove on which environments.



  • @Yamikuronue said:

    I feel like developers often disparage the work that PMs do and anyone who does them without cause.

    I think the animosity exists because if the PM does a terrible job, enough that it impacts the project, the devs end up taking the blame and the PM falls upwards (not sure if that expression translates to English. It means they are rewarded for failure). But if the PM is just useless and the devs manage to push the project forward, the PM takes the credit.

    That said, I think devs really value PMs they feel do a good job; who know what everyone is working on, assigns tasks reasonably, screens us from higher management, listens to us about what's possible and how long it may take, and provides what we need. I had a good PM once, and the team had a pretty good relationship with him.

    That aside, there's a fair amount of good-natured ribbing from devs to everyone who is not a dev (and to more junior devs). Specially QA, our nemesis. My code is perfect, it's reality that's buggy.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    What bothers me so much is how comfortable this office is with "we've always done it that way", to the point where they hired a person specifically to improve the process, she does her job without (as far as I can tell) any fault, and then you fire her!

    Yeah, clearly she was simply hired to be a scapegoat.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    In any other field, this would be obviously a ludicrous and terrible thing. But in IT, I guess, people just laugh and shrug it off?

    It happens in other fields, too. Think of only every committee set up to tackle a problem. If an organization creates a position in response to some particular problem that the organization as a whole does not deal with, it's probably going to end up like this story.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Except your PM was 100% right and you developers should have been backing her up. Firing her? Jesus.

    We did back her up. It was useful having an extra layer (as in, going from 0 layers to 1) between the developers and the customers. It wasn't our decision to let her go.

    @blakeyrat said:

    This story isn't funny, it makes me angry.

    That's how a lot of front page stories are to me, especially when they hit close to home.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @ChrisH said:
    This is possibly the biggest gripe I have with my staff members. How the fuck are we supposed to make better decisions if everybody keeps lying and yea-saying?

    What bothers me so much is how comfortable this office is with "we've always done it that way", to the point where they hired a person specifically to improve the process, she does her job without (as far as I can tell) any fault, and then you fire her!

    Goddamned that's awful.

    It wasn't so much a culture of "we've always done it this way," as it was a culture of "don't come to me with problems, come to me with solutions."

    A few months after I got hired at this place, we were having a meeting going over things that were holding everyone back. I mentioned how it was difficult to get programming work done while being assigned to answer the phone, because every interruption broke me out of the zone. After the meeting, one of my coworkers said, "When you said that, I facepalmed internally," and hinted that I had put my employment on thin ice by saying that.

    "Don't come to me with problems," is a valid response if the complainer has the means to devise and implement solutions on their own. If the nature of the problem is political or otherwise outside the domain of the complainer, then it's just a cheap way to blow off their concerns.



  • @ChrisH said:

    So why didn't you tell him she was doing a great job and that all problems were the fault of the CEO and his other fucktard buddies?

    A few of us did try to air our concerns. One of the training people pleaded with the CEO to hire more people, as all the developers were way too busy to help configure the software for new clients. It's been half a decade, but his response went something like this:

    When I was an engineer, I was always asking the asshole of a boss for more people. And he **NEVER** approved it. But you know what? Now I'm that asshole, and I'm not gonna approve it. You guys are highly* paid professionals and you should be able to figure out and solve these problems on your own, without any additional help.

    --snip additional five minutes of ranting about the financial pressures and sad life of being a businessman--

    Does that answer your question?

    *It was difficult for me not to smirk when he said that, as these days I make roughly twice what I made back there.



  • @JBert said:

    What? She was just too smart to keep her head down and got fired, I can't see how that counts as broken.

    For the rest of us, it was amusing to watch the descent into profanity. The rest of us had all been rendered numb to the bullshit by that point.



  • @Groaner said:

    I mentioned how it was difficult to get programming work done while being assigned to answer the phone, because every interruption broke me out of the zone. After the meeting, one of my coworkers said, "When you said that, I facepalmed internally," and hinted that I had put my employment on thin ice by saying that.

    @Groaner said:
    "Don't come to me with problems,"

    "Don't come to me with problems, come with resign letter instead."

    At least that's how I respond to the ongoing phone interruption problem in my last job. I determined that I cannot perform well enough in that condition and submitted my resign letter after talking to my department manager and got confirmation that the situation was not going to be improved.



  • @Rhywden said:

    To be fair to her: I don't think that any of this matters - you could have put the Fermi-equivalent of a project manager into this slot and he wouldn't have fared any better.

    Of course not, she was set up to fail. A qualified project manager in the same situation would quickly sense this, demand authority to control the schedules, tell the C-suite people sidestepping the system to fuck off, and probably get fired for insubordination in the process.

    Such candidates would also be smart and/or experienced enough to smell the mess a mile away and not accept a job at this place. Not that it would meet their salary requirements to begin with...



  • @cheong said:

    "Don't come to me with problems, come with resign letter instead."

    At least that's how I respond to the ongoing phone interruption problem in my last job. I determined that I cannot perform well enough in that condition and submitted my resign letter after talking to my department manager and got confirmation that the situation was not going to be improved.

    Hey, if they think they can save money on tech support by interrupting a programmer 30 times each workday, they're more than welcome to suffer the consequences in code quality!



  • @Groaner said:

    Not that it would meet their salary requirements to begin with...

    With the salary at 1/3 to 1/2 of normal market value for PMs, "The PM" is not to be expected to act as fully functional one.

    I think the better job description is "tasks tracker" and "customer anger tamer".



  • @Yamikuronue said:

    In companies without strong QA departments

    I'm sure you'll appreciate this. Here's the same CEO on QA:

    QA is a waste of time and money. When I was an engineer at [Local Big Company], we pushed code so fast that the QA team couldn't keep up. If they pushed back, we just kept pushing shit until they were overwhelmed and something HAD to be released. If I bring on a QA person, you guys will just defeat the system the same way.

    Why yes, that "reputation" I alluded to above did have something to do with code quality!


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Groaner said:

    For the rest of us, it was amusing to watch the descent into profanity. The rest of us had all been rendered numb to the bullshit by that point.

    See the long building with Lazercraze etc marked on it? When I worked there 15 years ago, that was a 3-story building, and the top was one long open room with a 20 or 30-foot ceiling. I worked about 1/3 of the way from the south end. One day some woman got pissed at her boss and started yelling at him about how she basically did his job for him. She spent about ten minutes tearing into him in a voice that carried through the entire building. No swearing either. It was quite impressive.

    I made the crop big enough so you could see a bunch of cars in the front parking lot, to see how big the building is. (It was Bell Labs/Lucent offices back then.)



  • @cheong said:

    I think the better job description is "tasks tracker" and "customer anger tamer".

    This is often a necessary role.



  • Hence "not a fully functional PM" because she cannot reorder task priorities, or plan anything forward, or even make promise to customers about anything.


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