Let’s just get it out of the way right here in the beginning: Communication.
For a short time in college I took a couple ROTC classes. Sadly, a military career was not to be for me. However, I still remember many of the lessons taught. An important one was taught by Major Turberville. He was probably the greatest leader I ever had the chance to observe.
A classic infantry position is a “V” formation with overlapping fields of fire. When you are placed on the line, what is the first thing you do?
This being a military organization, if you got the answer wrong, you had to do pushups. And, in an attempt to build squad cohesiveness, if anyone didn’t know the answer to that question everyone did pushups.
What do you think the answer is? Check your position? Secure your equipment? Dig in?
The first thing you need to do is communicate with the people on each side of you.
I’ve been doing a lot of interviewing. I’m trained as a Program and Project manager. PMs do a lot of talking in their job. In fact, unless you are in charge of the PMO (Project Management Office) you have no direct reports. Everyone you talk to works for someone else. No one works for you.
Also, don’t tell anyone, but Program Managers don’t do a lot. Our main job is making sure we know the people who do know how to do stuff. I guess you’d say Program Managers are supposed to know stuff. Project Managers as well. We are the keepers of the schedule, and the feature list, and the budget.
Interview questions for Program Managers are generally around times where you had a problem to solve, or a deadline to make, or a set of requirements to gather. What did you do?
The first step is always communicate. Communicate with you engineers. Communicate with your Stake Holders. Communicate with your Operations teams.
It’s literally impossible to over-communicate. It’s the first and last task for a PM.
And it’s the first thing to do if you’re assigned to a firing line as part of an infantry company.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
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