Don’t Make Me Work On A Project. Please.

I love projects. I love the sense of mission. I love the focus.

I love seeing something finished. I love delighting sponsors and clients. I love that I get to start new things over and over in different places and with different people. My favourite thing of all is righting a listing project, getting everything humming and seeing the people thriving.

Imagine my shock when over the holidays and over a relaxed lunch the subject of projects came up and I was pounced on.

Before I even had a chance to stutter a protest I was silenced by the following comments:

  • “They wanted me to go on a project and I did everything I could to get out of it. The people on it had their leave cancelled, they’re working really long hours, the bosses won’t listen and they aren’t getting paid any extra”
  • “Everyone but the boss knows it can’t happen when he wants it but he’s not listening so we get driven and driven”
  • “On mine they put together a plan that makes no sense”
  • “The boss thinks the PM is a hero – wait until he works it out”
  • “I can’t work project hours anymore, I have other things in my life”
  • “My project manager drives me nuts. She thinks her project is the only thing I have on”
  • “I’m on three projects and have my job to do, I just do what I can and leave the rest. I’m not killing myself for those idiots”
  • “The last one I worked on, we asked for a budget amount and were told to do it for half. In the end they got it for half – plus the original budget we’d asked for” (laughter)
  • “My favourite thing is when mistakes, errors and slippage happen, then they take the time from testing!” (serious laughter all around).

There were more comments but I’d folded inside to reflect. How can this be?

I’ve thought about it a lot over the past couple of weeks and I’d like to say that it doesn’t have to be that way, and I see these projects every day.

Projects can have:

  • Plans everyone buys into
  • Reasonable allocation of time and effort
  • Project managers who want to help you do the best you can without killing you in the process
  • Room for course correction without shortening critical parts of the project (testing)
  • Respect and accommodation of the other things you have on.

If you find yourself on one of the projects described by my lunch companions, do something. It’s not your fault if you’re allocated to one of these nightmares but it is your fault if you know there’s an alternative and you don’t pursue it. You might not have the authority to change anything, but you have the obligation to speak up. If the PM isn’t listening speak to the sponsor, if they’re not listening to you, and if you’re not willing or able to move, I guess you just suck it up (don’t yell at me. I know bills have to be paid, mouths have to be fed and families have to be raised. I just know there is a better way). The alternative is to be professional and disengage with dignity.