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Getting Work Done From People Not Reporting to You

Project Management, Marketing and Business Development Professional having 10 years of diverse experience. Expertise in Project Management,

When you are part of PMO or Project Management Domain, you are responsible for getting work done from people who do not report to you. Still as a project manager, its your job to deliver.

Now the problem one faces while dealing with humans is that a single formula or method never works. In case of a machine or any equipment, you will be able to get desired output all the time. Human beings are different. They have to face the bitter sweet realities of life. Even a very helpful person may not help you if you have reached him/her on a bad mood day.

Having written that, and over the course of about a decade's experience, I have successfully handled dozens of projects, business cases and scenarios. I am sharing some of my key learnings.

Build a Relationship

I was working on this project's implementation providing fiber optic connectivity over several hundreds of KMs, including the ISP part. My team was complaining about a particular region not sending timely updates (these updates were essential for management reporting as this was a mega project of strategic nature). The issue was highlighted and i decided to intervene. I called the regional manager who was in a different city. I simply started chatting about current weather, law and order situation etc. after our formal introductions. Before saying goodbye i just reminded him about the report which was due. We got the report one day before the deadline. Over the course of the project i had several calls, MS Teams Meetings with the person. Also i got to know about his interests and family. Never once did we get another complain from that region in other projects.

Its Better to Call first and Then Send Email When Following Up

Following up on pending activities is an essential requirement when you want something done on time. The issue is that people would keep on sending periodic reminders. Now just a day before the issue getting critical or a major deadline, pressure will soar up and everything will be escalated to top management. People tend to become defensive at this stage and the blame game begins. Now most people do get timelines met by adding senior people and this is the only way they know of getting things done. I have learned (being guilty of doing the same in the beginning of my career) that the project execution will go on but not without a bad taste in mouth.

I will propose something which has worked miracles for me. I always call a person before sending email reminders. Mind it, i don't skip the email part but i talk first. Even when possible i go and meet the person. I think this course of action is best and simply escalating and emailing is not an effective method.

Want to be Pleasantly Surprised, Ask for Help

I have noticed that people have pre-conceived notions about every other person that he/she will not help me. I would ask everyone to try this yourself, "Ask For Help!!!". You will be pleasantly surprised so many people will be willing to lend a hand (not every person though). I have received a great amount of help from so many people and one needs to acknowledge that. Most of the time it wasn't even their task but i still got their support. But the first step is always mine. I discuss my problem and seek help. No one is going to help you unless you define your problem and explicitly ask for their support.

Knowledge is the Key

When you are working in the domain of project management, at times you have to get things done where you have no technical expertise. Still you have to come up with a project implementation plan. You also have to develop a tracker which is used to track every activity. I have seen people who do not talk to people having expertise in that area, prior to developing PIP and trackers. This is one of the major cause of projects needing extra budgets, missing deadlines as lot of relevant information as well as pre-requisites for certain activities is missed.

The most helpful thing i have found is to talk to the experts. Show them your working and get validation. When you have an effective plan, you will get work done from people effectively.

Make it easier for people to work for you

If you want someone to do something for you so that you are able to deliver your project's scope within the allocated budget and timelines, you want the person working on it to understand what you exactly need. But people tend to forget that it is your duty to make him/her know your exact requirement. The basic mistake people make here is that they would just attach a whole tracker with dozens of fields (most of which will be irrelevant for that person you want to work for you) and ask the person to add the required data in say column x, by looking at these columns and these rows. I think this is unfair. The data is yours so you can easily steer around your spreadsheet but the other person will have to understand your data first. Much of the information will not be relevant for him/her. The person will also get an excuse for you to approach him/her and then he asks for a session to understand the data from you. I have witnessed people wasting weeks when this approach is taken.

The best way would be to send only relevant information. Also make and mark a column for the other person to add information. A little extra work here will save weeks of reworking and escalations.

© 2021 Syed Athar Shah

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