miércoles, noviembre 02, 2011

Tácticas de Guerrilla

Un buen PM nunca tiene que rendirse ante un problema. Si nos enfrentamos con algo que es importante para el proyecto hay que actuar agresivamente y usar todos los medios necesarios para encontrar la respuesta o resolver el problema. Todos tratamos de evitar el conflicto, pero en este tipo de situaciones hay que cuestionar a la gente, desafiar asunciones y buscar la verdad, sin importar lo incomodo que esto sea para todos (aunque hay que tratar de minimizar este efecto negativo). La diligencia gana batallas. Hay que buscar alternativas y ser implacable, pero utilizando el sentido común, lo ideal es buscar la forma astuta de resolver los problemas. Hay que ser implacable en espíritu pero astuto en acción.

Estas palabras fueron tomadas del libro "The Art Of Project Management" de Scott Berkun y sirven para introducir ciertas tácticas de guerrilla que el autor aplico para lograr lo necesario para cumplir con sus objetivos (Algunas son riesgosas y tienen que aplicarse con cuidado) Disfrutenlas!

Know who has authority. Don't waste time arguing with people who have no control or influence over the issue. To be effective, you need to know who makes decisions or influences a particular issue or situation. Find out who it is (it's not always the most senior person in the room, and the identity of the person may change from issue to issue), get time with him one-on-one, and make your case. Or, at least find out what she truly objects to. If you can't get to the most influential person (Sally, the VP), find the person who has the greatest influence on her (Sally's best employee). Go to the highest point on the chain you can reach. Warning: don't end-run people. Go to the point of authority, but invite the opposing viewpoint if necessary, or disclose to him what you're doing. "Look, we disagree, but we can agree that it's Sally's decision. I'm going to go talk to her about this tomorrow. I'd like you to be there."

Go to the source. Don't dillydally with people's secondhand interpretations of what someone said, and don't depend on written reports or emails for complex information. Find the actual person and talk to him directly. You can't get new questions answered by reading reports or emails, and often people will tell you important things that were inappropriate for written communication. Going to the source is always more reliable and valuable than the alternatives, and it's worth the effort required. For example, if two programmers are arguing about what a third programmer said, get that third programmer in the room or on the phone. Always cut to the chase and push others to do the same.

Switch communication modes. If communication isn't working, switch the mode. Instead of email, call them on the phone. Instead of a phone call, drop by their office. Everyone is more comfortable in some mediums than others. (Generally, face to face, in front of a whiteboard, trumps everything. Get people in a room with a whiteboard if the email thread on some issue gets out of control.) Don't let the limitations of a particular technology stop you. Sometimes, switching modes gets you a different response, even if your request is the same, because people are more receptive to one mode over another. For anything consequential, it's worth the money and time to get on a plane, or drive to their office, if it improves the communication dynamic between you and an important co-worker.

Get people alone. When you talk to someone privately, her disposition toward you is different than when you talk to her in a large group. In a meeting, important people have to craft what they say to be appropriate for all of the ears in the room. Sometimes, you'll hear radically different things depending on who is in earshot. If you want a frank and honest opinion, or an in-depth intense conversation, you need to get people alone. Also, consider people of influence: if Jim trusts Beth's opinion, and you want to convince Jim, if you can convince Beth first, bring her along. Don't ambush anyone, but don't shy away from lining things up to make progress happen.

Hunt people down. If something is urgent and you are not getting the response time you need, carve out time on your schedule to stake out the person's office or cubicle. I've done this many times. If he wasn't answering my phone calls or emails, he'd soon come back from a meeting and find me sitting by his door. He'd usually be caught so off guard that I'd have a negotiating advantage. Don't be afraid to go after people if you need something from them. Find them in the coffee room. Look for them in the café at lunchtime. Ask their secretary what meetings they are in and wait outside. Be polite, but hunt and get what you need. (However, please do not cross over into their personal lives. If you hunt information well, you shouldn't ever even need to cross this particular line.)

Hide. If you are behind on work and need blocks of time to get caught up, become invisible. On occasion, I've staked out a conference room (in a neighboring building) and told only the people who really might need me where I was. I caught up on email, specs, employee evaluations, or anything important that wasn't getting done, without being interrupted. For smaller orgs, working from home or a coffee shop can have the same effect (wireless makes this easy these days). I always encouraged my reports to do this whenever they felt it necessary. Uninterrupted time can be hard for PMs to find, so if you can't find it, you have to make it.

Get advice. Don't fly solo without a map unless you have to. In a given situation, consider who involved thinks most highly of you, or who may have useful advice for how you can get what you need. Make use of any expertise or experience you have access to through others. Pull them aside and ask them for it. This can be about a person, a decision, a plan, anything. "Hey Bob, I'd like your advice on this budget. Do you have a few minutes?" Or, "Jane, I'm trying to work with Sam on this issue. Any advice on the best way to convince him to cut this feature?" For many people, simply asking their advice will score you credibility points: it's an act of respect to ask for someone's opinion.

Call in favors, beg, and bribe. Make use of the credibility or generosity you've developed a reputation for. If you need an engineer to do extra work for you, either because you missed something or a late requirement came in, ask her to do you a favor. Go outside the boundaries of the strict working relationship, and ask. Offer to buy her dinner ($20 is often well worth whatever the favor is), or tell her that you owe her one (and do hold yourself to this). The worst thing that can happen is that she'll say no. The more favors you've done for others, the more chips you'll have to bank on. Also, consider working three-way trades (e.g., in the game Settlers of Cattan) if you know of something she wants that you can get from someone else. It's not unethical to offer people things that will convince them to help with work that needs to be done.

Play people off each other. This doesn't have to be evilif you're very careful. If Sam gives you a work estimate of 10 days, which you think is bogus, go and ask Bob. If Bob says something less than 10 days, go back to Sam, with Bob. A conversation will immediately ensue about what the work estimate really should be. If you do this once, no engineer will ever give you bogus estimates again (you've called bullshit). However, depending on Sam's personality, this may cost you relationship points with him, so do it as tactfully as possible, and only when necessary. Good lead programmers should be calling estimate bluffs on their own, but if they don't, it's up to you.

Stack the deck. Never walk into an important meeting without knowing the opinions of the important people in the room. Always arrive with a sense for who is likely to support your opinion and who is likely to be against it, and have a strategy developed for navigating through it all (see Chapter 16). If something important is at stake, make some moves to sway those against you, or to rally their support, before the meeting. Don't lie, manipulate, or mislead, but do seriously prepare and understand the arguments and counterarguments that will come up.

Buy people coffee and tasty things. This sounds stupid, but I've found that people I've argued with for days on end are somehow more receptive over a nice cup of coffee at a local coffee shop. Change the dynamic of the relationship: no matter how much you like or don't like the person, make the invitation and invest the 20 seconds of effort it requires. Even if he says "No, why can't we talk here?", you've lost nothing. Moving the conversation to a different location, perhaps one less formal, can help him open up to alternatives he wouldn't consider before. Think biologically: humans are in better moods after they've eaten a fine meal or when they are in more pleasant surroundings. I've seen PMs who keep doughnuts or cookies (as well as rum and scotch) in their office. Is that an act of goodwill? Yes...but there are psychological benefits to making sure the people you are working with are well fed and associate you with good things.

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