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Old 08-07-2014, 09:03 AM
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Micromanaging Client

Hi All-

I was looking for some advice from those who have been in Project Management for a lot longer than I (less than a year).

I have a client related issue. Myself and my team work with several individuals at a Company requesting services from us. At that company there is a Director, and about 4-5 managers working for her/him. All of which are new within the last 3months - 1.5 years. On my side, there is a Director, myself (PM), and 5 team members.

My job, naturally, is to ensure everyone is doing their part (the client included) to meet our deliverables and deadlines etc, while also documenting communications, changes in scope, delays etc. I have status calls twice a week, one with the client, one with my team (some are remote). My director trusts us and our ability to answer questions the client may have, so they can focus their attention on more pressing, high level, matters- and not the intricate details of the Project itself. Well, the Director on the client side feels the need to micromanage and involve themselves in not only the high level discussions, but our lower level status calls. S/he practically walks into the conversation throwing around information (that ends up confusing the team, and pointing them in directions they do not need to be focusing just yet) and then expects us all to take care of the 'problems' that aren't really problems at all. To top it off, s/he is not well organized- so when I say they throw around information, they are literally talking about everything under the sun that they feel is a problem (that isn't), and not focused on any one particular phase of the project itself. Then, if and when something doesn't get done to their liking, they point fingers. Often times it is pointed at my team and I, when it was really their team that dropped the ball- or it's being worked on, and her team just hasn't updated her. Then again, the director really does not need to be involved at our level of discussion- unless we need them to be. Even the director's team has voiced their frustrations with him/her!

I've tried to be proactive in providing frequent updates to just the Directors (my own and the client) so they feel better about progress and do not feel the need to be involved in lower level status calls. It seems to be working, but then again, it's only been a couple of weeks since I implemented this idea.

I understand that s/he is feeling the need to micromanage the project because they do not trust someone, somewhere. Not to act like the perfect one, but I would imagine his/her trust issues are based on their new team members and they're making sure things are getting done right.

Sorry I have been rambling on a bit, but I guess my true question here is:
Is there a way to politely, and directly, tell the client that they need to take a step back? I mean I would love to literally say "You don't need to be involved in this discussion, you should focus your attention elsewhere" - but then again, they are the almighty client My director and I can't seem to figure out the best, and most polite way to communicate that to them without, for lack of a better word, pissing them off.

I appreciate your help, here!

Thanks
E

Last edited by EC37; 08-07-2014 at 09:29 AM.
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Old 08-25-2014, 05:13 AM
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I happened on your thread while I was looking for something else. I see it has been a couple of weeks since you posted. So hope this is not too late.

It sounds like you have hit on a solution. That is you put yourself in her shoes to try and understand what is worrying her and then you are using the tactic of "detailed reporting" to keep her informed., show her the progress. Preempting as you say and you think that seems to be working. Congratulations!

If the situation deteriorates then you could take your "empathy" approach a bit further by having a private conversation with her. Ask her how she thinks things are going. Tell her you "notice" she is heavily involved in the detail and it must be taking a toll on her busy schedule. Is there anything in particular she is worried about, what can you do to alleviate her fears and eliminate her need to be "so involved with the detail"?

Alternatively, you may need to implement tighter control of your status calls depending on how you run those. You might need to have a tighter agenda that is published before the call. Keep the time and call the time. It is 9:05. We have 25 minutes. First item is: It's 9:15, we have 15 minutes, lets stick to the agenda. You can say things like, that issue is not really a topic for converation in this call. Our agenda is for project isues. If she raises issues that are in your opinion out of scope, then something like ... I've noted that, I will follow that up with you later today or separately or whatever you feel comfortable saying. Then run it through your Change Control procedure. If you don't have a CC procedure...and you haven't been doing that...you may get some kick back so you need to be careful how you now introduce your new CC procedure but...You can point out the number of "creep items" you've already let slip through and you can't let "this item " slip through. If you have a roles and responsibilities section in a project plan, you can point to that...this is normally your team's role and you're asking us to take it on...etc.

As for her team's failure to do the work, you have to make sure that tasks they are responsible for are clearly assigned to them and reported as such. Include the who, the what, the date assigned, the date due, no of days over due, date completed. If you don't have a method for this...a simple spreadsheet is a good format in particular for "circulating" to project sponsors include a front coversummary format. Maybe you have an issues tracking system. You should be able to report stats which clearly show the client team is falling down. You might diplomatically show summaries (45 items assigned to Client Team, 3 items completed on time, 10 items completed late, 20 WIP items over due, 5 items scheduled to start. 6 items starting late, etc). It is up to her to drill down on who in her team is not delivering. Your first publication of such a report should go to the team and then let them know it is going to be published to the project sponsors. Of course if you do this for the Client Team you have to report on your own team.

Document, document, document and then let the information speak for itself.

Hope this helps.

Mudd
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Old 08-25-2014, 07:09 AM
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Hi Mudd.

No worries on how long this has been posted- it's still an issue regardless
But yes, your post was certainly helpful. Funny, though.. on Wednesday I learned that this particular person is leaving their position and going elsewhere- however, all of this information will be helpful for the next person to come along. If I head this thing off in the beginning, it will prove we know what we're doing- and perhaps they, too, will focus on the bigger pieces of the project, rather than the details. Until they leave, and I don't see it happening immediately, I'll do my best to keep them in line

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

E
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