I was amused. Well sort of. If the situation hadn’t been so serious, it might have been funny.
The IT Project Manager walked into the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) room, apparently to encourage the business UAT team to test harder and faster. I watched the UAT team lead turn her back to the Project Manager. Then I saw the policy lead turn her back to the Project Manager. The Project Manager stood there talking to 20 UAT testers, and the main leads that she was addressing had turned their backs. Deliberately I thought.
She was explaining to them that their efforts were not fast enough, and they were therefore compromising the project deadline. Without so much as waiting for her to finish, the UAT lead spoke to the wall in front of her, her back still turned. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 100 times; we can’t test what’s not working!”
So what was happening here? What I had just witnessed was a frustrated group of end-users who were the last bastion of system acceptance before the system was certified to go live throughout the organization. For four months now they had been testing, and testing, and testing some more. Often when they regression-tested, functionality that had previously passed their acceptance testing had defects once again – the result of yet another “fix”. To the end-users it seemed as though they were going backwards, even as the deadline for system implementation loomed. They had had several meetings with the development team, and each time the IT Project Manager had pointed her finger at the inefficiency of the UAT team.
So then why might I think this was funny? Because, even as the business leads turned their back on the Project Manager, I watched in disbelief as she didn’t even notice. She carried on as though she had a captive audience that was attending to her every word. She did not notice that the leads’ body language was so flagrant, that she was reduced to nothing more than a “talking head”, a non-entity. As she left the room, she glanced over at me and said. “Well, I thought that went rather well.”
Here’s the sad part: this Project Manager had been completely unaware of the business team’s disdain for her for several months. She was absorbed in ensuring that her team was pushing the deadlines, even if it meant burying the UAT team. She played the game called “don’t get any on me” very well. Each time I took her aside to try to help her understand her increasing persona non grata status, she refused to believe me or accept any counsel on how to rectify the situation.
I shook my head. All she had had to do over the last several months was to read the body language of her users, ask some introspective questions, and support her client. But she didn’t; and it went badly for her. She’s what a former colleague of mine used to call a “box of rocks”.
A true consultant read his client’s body language, and makes adjustments as she goes along.
[If you’re looking for an upbeat keynote speaker, an experienced seminar leader, an on-site project management coach, or an expert in project oversight and IV&V, you need look no further. Contact Merv to help guarantee your project delivery success.]
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