Managing Your Boss

Effective management of your boss requires an awareness of both how you tend to behave and an understanding of the patterns of your boss's behavior. Further, rather than insisting that your boss change behavior, you should change your behavior, which will have the effect of forcing your boss to deal with something new. This is likely to change the dynamic of what might be going on between both people. As an example, if you have been passive as a response to the wilting onslaught of a hostile-aggressive boss, you might try a more aggressive response. This change of behavior is likely to create a new dynamic that may lead to some changes in how your boss deals with you. Remember, the only way to deal with a bully is to fight back.

A well-considered and rational analysis of the situation is a good first step in trying to manage your boss by changes in your own behavior. An example of how one might do that is shown in Table 5.3 in relation to the action-people-process-action paradigm previously discussed. This table

TABLE 5.3 Predicting Boss-Subordinate Trouble Spots

List two complaints from:

List two complaints from:

TABLE 5.3 Predicting Boss-Subordinate Trouble Spots

Boss*

Subordinates*

Boss

Subordinate

A, PE

PR, I

1.

1.

2.

2.

PR, I

A, PE

1.

1.

2.

2.

PR, PE

A, I

1.

1.

2.

2.

A, PR

PE, I

1.

1.

2.

2.

A, I

PR, PE

1.

1.

2.

2.

PE, I

PR, A

1.

1.

2.

2.

shows various combinations of boss and subordinate types and calls for information about how both types might complain about each other. Try filling in the blanks. This will help in trying to understand how you might view the situation both as a boss and as a subordinate.

Another perspective regarding the management of a boss can be found by a careful reading of Bramson's book [5.7], particularly in relation to what to do about the seven bad bosses that he describes. His prescriptions for these extreme cases provide some valuable insight into new ways of behaving. They also implicitly reinforce the point that changes in your own behavior are the most effective ways of coping with a bad boss.

Finally, we list some more moderate actions that might be taken with a not very good but less than pathologic boss:

1. Keep all interactions on a formal basis.

2. Provide short but regular status reports on your activities.

3. Develop lists of items you think are important to accomplish and present these to your boss for agreement.

4. Demonstrate your capabilities with respect to

• Your judgment

• Your creativity and competence

• Your responsiveness and responsibility

5. Look for opportunities to build trust.

6. Do not confront in public situations.

7. Do not allow yourself to be victimized.

8. Speak to a trusted colleague who knows your boss to try to get another point of view.

9. Take your boss to lunch to explore better ways of interacting. 10. If these do not work, speak to your boss's supervisor or the human resources people in your organization.

In all cases, try not to resign yourself to living with a seriously bad boss. Life is too short to not try to fix the problem.

5.5 CUSTOMER INTERACTION

In recent years, it has finally been recognized that the "customer is king.'' That is, the customer may not always be right, but he or she is paying the bills and desires to have the results of a project provide appropriate value for the money that is being spent.

In broad terms, from the perspective of a PM or CSE, there are several types of customers, namely:

1. The outside direct customer

2. The outside surrogate customer

3. The internal customer

The outside direct customer is the entity outside the organization for which the project is being executed, with such a customer directly using the results of the project. As an example, if the project involves the building by a systems contractor of an on-line transaction-processing (OLTP) system for a bank, the bank would be the outside direct customer. The user needs and requirements are defined directly by the bank, and the bank must be satisfied that the system ultimately meets these needs and requirements.

In the case of the outside surrogate customer, an agency or group is serving as a surrogate customer, representing the end user needs and requirements. This situation is typified by many government agency customers whereby one group is the acquisition agent and another group is the ultimate user. One may see this situation, for example, in the U.S. Navy, where one agency or center serves as the acquisition agent for the end user, which is the Navy's fleet. Thus, the needs and requirements of the fleet are represented and translated by the surrogate customer who is, in some sense, a ''middleman'' in the overall acquisition process.

The internal customer case may be described by a project being carried out totally within the confines of an organization or company. For example, some enterprises have a Management Information Systems (MIS) or Information Resource Management (IRM) Department that produces information systems for the rest of the organization. The project is thereby responsible to a user inside the company. At the same time, the PM is likely to have a supervisor who reports upward to a group that is parallel (e.g., the corporate information officer, CIO) to the customer group organization.

The point is that whereas each of the preceding customer situations presents somewhat different problems to the PM, all must be treated with due respect to the customer, and due regard for the customer's needs and requirements. To do otherwise is to create problems rather than solve them.

A summary of a dozen points that the PM and the CSE should keep in mind in dealing with a customer are listed in Exhibit 5.2.

Exhibit 5.2: Guidelines for Dealing with Your Customer

1. Your customer has a MBTI profile; try to figure it out and behave accordingly.

2. Focus on the needs and requirements as stated by your customer.

3. Imagine yourself in your customer's position.

4. Listen intently to what your customer is saying.

5. ''Sell'' your approach and end product or service to your customer.

6. Speak to your customer at least once a week.

7. Be thoroughly professional in all interactions.

8. Live up to all commitments.

9. If your customer is headed in the wrong direction, gently suggest alternative directions and actions.

10. Demonstrate your technical and management skills.

11. Maintain customer contact and interaction in parallel channels above the level of the PM (e.g., vice president to vice president).

12. Treat your customer with honesty and respect.

Following these ''rules'' helps to establish a long-term trusting relationship with your customer. This does not guarantee success, but provides an overall environment and relationship that helps to foster success. Perhaps the most important rule is the last one dealing with honesty and respect. This is the most critical aspect of dealing with a customer.

5.6 LEADERSHIP

The headline of an article in a newspaper on computers suggested that the purchase by Loral of IBM's federal operations raised ''leadership questions.'' This headline echoed what has become a critical issue for many of our organizations and enterprises—that of leadership. Whereas not too many years ago, corporate executives were under close scrutiny for their management skills, or lack thereof, today the key word is leadership. There is little question, therefore, that a great deal of attention has been focused on the top management, in both government and industry, having the requisite leadership attributes. Some of that focus, indeed, is seeping downward into the domain of the Project Manager and the Chief Systems Engineer. Companies are looking for people who are not only outstanding managers, but are leaders as well. The conventional wisdom is that leaders are a small ''subset'' of good managers; leaders have extra qualities that transcend the skills of even the best manager.

From experience, leaders are not necessarily born to such a capability, but can be taught and can grow into leaders. For the PM or CSE who has achieved a high level of competence in this type of position, and who aspires to become a leader at the project and ultimately at higher levels in an organization, we add this short perspective on leadership.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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