Senior managers often insist on doing things their way, even though they are new to that position or portion of the business and do not understand project management. One time I was being pushed to become a technical expert on a project I was managing, because the senior manager thought that is how to earn respect. I argued that a project manager’s responsibility is to drive the overall process and get issues resolved, not try to second guess the technical experts. We did not resolve our disagreements in the initial conversation but
agreed to keep each other informed as the project progressed.
At one point during the project he criticized me for a change we made. I explained that the project team discussed the change thoroughly and agreed it was necessary to get past problems from the past. It took courage and passion on my part to push back against the manager who was only acting upon inputs from others, not his own experience or knowledge. I had the strength of the whole team, the soundness of our deliberations, and my own belief that this was the right thing to do acting in my favor. The manager backed down.
Throughout the project I consistently applied sound project management practices and achieved success. It was this success and consistency in actions that gained me respect. He and his manager, who both had been project management illiterate, came to recognize that the project manager position makes a unique, valuable contribution, because they witnessed how masterly the discipline can be applied. I got difficult projects done and in ways that went beyond their own knowledge. Instead of me asking the manager what I should do, I kept the manager informed of what I was doing so he would not be surprised. I also made sure that I had his support, in a general sense of direction, via these regular communications. This approach had the additional benefit for me of avoiding micromanagement by the manager because he respected my contributions.
Randy Englund, www.englundpmc.com