How the heck are you supposed to have an up-to-date status of your team’s needs, let alone an up-to-date status of project progress?
As of last week, we have twice-a-week scrums on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I can glean only a smattering of what the team is working on at these meetings since said meetings seem to morph into I-have-a-problem or I-can-help-you meetings. This format is actually great for this team since they aren't communicating otherwise. I see very little email traffic. I hear very little of anything, really, and I find that I’m pulling information from reluctant teammates. I pushed for a daily scrum, but many people – including my project sponsor – balked at that idea.
So in light of the fact that I was not having any daily meetings until last week (sort of), I resorted to using the weekly status meeting that the project sponsor set up. I asked how I thought we were tracking and then asked about blocking issues. To my surprise, the project sponsor wanted these meetings to be about the PM (me) reporting to the team how things were going. I find this very limited, and I end up getting updates from the team anyway.
I’m learning that Traditional Project Management is more about going to each person on the team – daily, if need be – and asking them how they’re doing or where they’re at. While this can be great from a relational standpoint, it can also be detrimental. The PM eventually becomes a pest in the eyes of his/her teammates instead of being a trusted source of roadblock-removal. In an environment like the one I’m in, the fact that these teammates are matrixed resources who are far too overloaded doesn't help me when I have to ask them about the status of the project for which I am responsible. They are not happy to see me, so this immediately drives a wedge between us that is sometimes difficult to pry loose.
Gathering status one teammate at a time is also a waste. By the time I get status from everyone, the status of the first person I talked to has changed. Also, if I hear of roadblocks, then I have to bounce around from person to person to see if I can clear the roadblock before it becomes an issue. This is why I think daily scrums are so valuable. We can get everything out of the way all at once and keep the team moving forward one day at a time.
Don’t even get me started about the tools we’re using to track progress. We have a very high level project schedule in Smartsheet. If you aren't familiar, Smartsheet is an MS Project clone that is all online. We then have a “test control sheet” that lists high level test case names. (Remember my post a few weeks ago pondering the reasons why I, as a PM, was required to put together a test plan? Yeah, this “control sheet” was the end result of that.) On top of the “control sheet,” we have test scripts and individual test plans we’re updating. I have to peruse all these places to see where things are and then somehow keep track of it. I've created a private Trello board just to keep all of this straight. I would much prefer that we had everything tasked out… user stories… something! This is what we have, though, and I have to work with it.
While I think Traditional Project Management definitely has its place, in the software world, Agile is a much more efficient way of getting things done.