I feel so frustrated at the moment!
I'm working on a project to establish a new office in Australia. I'm supposed to be the Programme Manager for IT development, of which this is just one project. There is a woman who is managing the office/facilities part of the project who has access to the project plan. There are hundreds of dependencies between the IT stuff and the rest of the project as you would expect. She keeps making changes to the plan which of course affect the IT stuff, and then takes the amended plan to her Board who come back with "tell IT to do x, y and z by x date"
I can't manage a plan with other people altering it, and I feel that if their Board is going to make demands on the IT staff then there should be an IT representative there.
First thing - how do I go about managing a plan when I can't guarantee its integrity?
Second thing - am I wrong to feel completely out of control?!


bflynn's picture

My first impressions - who owns the plan? It sounds like its not you. You are a technician in the plan, so no, you are not in control.

That established - do what you know you should. Deep breath and quit fighting it. Make sure the person in charge understands the risks of making changes without consulting you. If you feel its necessary and appropriate, talk with those above her (the board?) about the risks as well.

The basic problem here is the same one I've seen in project after project - the breakdown of the work triangle. [b]This is so common that it ought to be the first troubleshooting step you take with regards to any project issue.[/b] A customer cannot dictate the scope, the time and the resources (money) of a project. One must flex. In a corporation, money is usually fixed by the budget, which means that scope or time must change. If you feel that you're being given unreasonable options, then show that.

And, if you can't show it, then get the job done.


gernot's picture

My first thought was - youre a project manager - it's your job to manage changes. :)

But shooting at moving targets sure is difficult.

I would advice that you in addition to what bflynn said establish a set of assumptions.
Then you state that your part of the plan relys on these assumptions.
If any of this changes, you cannot guarantee the integrity.
Or: you can garantuee for the plan to fail. :(

Than you keep versions of the plan. With a new version you and your female colleague have to adjust the new plan together.

The last thing is- communicate to her!
In a recent project the test manager stated over the period of one year, that she cannot guarantee tests, she needs more resources and that everything would fail etc.
She was right - but she did not communicate well to the sub-project managers and did not made any proposal to solve any of the problems.
So there was no progress at all...

Hope that helps a little bit.

thaGUma's picture

Storm, without knowing the detail of exactly how IT integrates into an office relocation, I can tell you that from the 'other side' there will be no idea of the stresses that you are being put under.

[quote]I can't manage a plan with other people altering it[/quote]
From a non-IT viewpoint, all you do is cabling :shock:. If the desks move - so what? If the numbers change - more cabling, phones and some more outlets - not rocket science.

You have to battle an age old divide. The space planner needs to appreciate how much time you need to finalise things from fixed layout. If the changes are frequent, perhaps its time to take a step back and concentrate on quanities and general IT strategy until things settle down a bit.

BUT there WILL be change up to an including the moment when desks are physically placed in the new office. Your project plan needs to reflect this strategy.

Good luck.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

I've worked in IT for a lot of years. I've worked with a lot of IT people through those years. Most of those people, and it sounds like you too, want to do a good job. They want everything to work perfectly. We have all been burned by other people not getting their part done. Most of us have come to the conclusion that it works best if we're in charge. :)

That being said, I agree with earlier responses: it sounds like her project. You don't get to be in charge. Sorry.

As you pointed out, there are a lot of connections between the tasks you need to do and the tasks in the overall project. I would try to:

1. Identify the tasks I needed to complete.
2. Identify the amount of time each task will take.
3. Identify the tasks out of my control that my tasks are dependent on.
4. Identify the tasks beyond my control that depend on my tasks.

Give her some building blocks for the work you are responsible for. Help her understand what you need for your pieces, and learn what her needs are for her pieces. If she's open to it, get a good Gantt chart going. Heck, take the opportunity to teach her something like MS Project.

When it's all done, she'll enjoy working with you. You might e even enjoy working with her!

jhack's picture

Most projects are really sub-projects of a larger initiative, and few managers truly control the fabled triangle. Sidebar: the triangle has has a fourth factor, quality (varies when the other three are fixed), and a hidden escape hatch, called process innovation.

You don't indicate that the work can't be done, only that it's difficult to manage. That's good news! So.....

Think in terms of negotiating a contract with the facilities manager: "you need x,y,z by time t; this is what it will take." Break the plan into two: Manage your plan, the stuff you control, and leave her to manage what she can control (WillDuke's idea). If the terms of the contract need to change, you look at your plan, figure out what it will take, and communicate back.


[PS: I recommend the podcast on the "Juggling Koan" here. It may not be a perfect fit, but it should resonate with your situation. ]

wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

Hi storm,

whilst I think you've been given some great advice, I wanted to add something :-)

Just because she is not communicating with you, doesn't stop you communicating with her. There's nothing stoping you calling her up and saying, I'm really struggling with this project and would you help me by meeting for 30 minutes a week, or having a conference call, so we can go through the current status? Or more often or longer, or whatever you think is best and she'll agree to.

I do with this wayward hiring managers all the time. It means I know what's going on, I can bring them back in process as much as possible, and I can stop them being stupid. They think they're helping me out, and really, I'm just controlling them (don't tell them that though!).

I hope that's useful.


gilz's picture

I agree with Wendii - you have to be fully aware of the impact of the other parts of the project on yours. Are you expecting a deliverable, and they shifted the date? Better know that earlier.

And the way to do this is by communicating. Face to face. Imagine getting this type of information that comes in a way of a report -what would you do? First it might be already set in stone, and you lost your say. Or, it's not, but the other side already has convinced the project owner about his stuff, which leaves you in a defending/opposing position.

Document your assumptions. Keep tracking if these assumptions are still correct. Whenever they are not - flag them.

Communicate with the pm to see how the other parts progress. Communicate with the other parties - might come handy, even if on paper it doesn't needed.

And, deliver your parts as promised.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I agree with all above.

You can, and will have to, for the rest of your career, manage projects of which you are not in control.

Control is an illusion.

Do your part - including communication - regardless.