Spending Time With the Schedule or the People?


In one of my classes earlier this week, one project manager explained that he spent an entire day each week working the Gantt chart in a scheduling tool. He has a project of roughly 20 developers, a few testers, and a few other people (I’ve forgotten the details).

I asked if he had one-on-ones with everyone every week, even just an informal checkin to see how things were going. No, he depends on his technical leads (4 or 5 of them) to do that. He then integrates everything into the humungous WBS.

That’s not my style. I’d much rather have a less detailed schedule in the scheduling tool (or hire some administrator kind of person to manage the WBS) and spend time with the people. When I spend time with the people on the project, they are less likely to stretch the truth about their real status. I can see demos or other visible progress. And, I’m much more likely to hear bad news early.

This fellow seems to be succeeding, but I don’t think spending a day a week on a WBS is a scalable idea. I prefer to do rolling wave planning and only plan for a few weeks at a time, and block out the rest of the schedule, and keep talking to the people. And, when I work for people who require a long detailed WBS, I hire a project administrator, who has a full-time job keeping the schedule.

My first choice (and second and third choice 🙂 is to manage the project in a way that the WBS works for me, not the other way around. And I choose to work for the people on the project, not the schedule.

2 Replies to “Spending Time With the Schedule or the People?”

  1. Good lord, JR. 4 or 5 leads out of 20 (plus a few?) Plus a day a week mucking with the WBS? In aid of what, exactly?
    I have about a dozen / maybe fifteen (depends on what counts as working on the team I’m responsible for these days (depends on what counts as “on the team”). On average, I talk with each one of them between once and twice a day. I talk about half as frequently with folks on teams we work closely with – test engineers for example.
    WBS, PERT, Gantt & other instruments are wonderful things. (I have a couple of my own that expose some unique things.) In the end, a tracking instrument is just a tracking instrument, and somehow the work has to happen.
    Didn’t everybody notice “Management By Wandering Around” back when HP was kicking everybody’s butt by doing things “the HP way?”
    Sheesh. ()

  2. When are people going to learn that they manage people not tasks. Staring at a screen isn’t going to tell you that there’s going to be a problem or a schedule slip – speaking to the folks doing the work will.

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