Ever wish someone would solve your project issues? It’s time for you to be that project manager who knows someone.
I had an issue recently on a project. During testing, everything was going fine except for a certain set of transactions. We needed clarification on business rules and couldn’t move forward without it.
I took the question to the subject matter experts who’d helped us before, and they came up empty: the transactions were all for a department that they had no insight on. We were stuck.
Then I got a phone call. It was from someone dealing with this sort of transaction in the department we couldn’t figure out. He didn’t have the answer to our problem. He actually had another problem: the fix we were trying to make already worked for his department. So would we please not screw it up?
It seemed like it might be a coincidence, but I put two and two together and offered it to the team as a hypothesis: could our broken transactions be the result of us messing up something that already worked? The explanation I’d gotten so far was a rational enough, so this seemed possible – if perhaps a little too good to be true.
Then someone else gave me a call. The department we’d fretted about was actually out of scope for us. They did things differently, and the issue we were trying to resolve didn’t impact them. And here was how to identify their transactions so we could exclude. I had everything right there: confirmation of the resolution and the actions needed to put it in place.
I felt like I should go play the lottery. How often do people just call you up to solve your project issues?
Of course, this wasn’t just random phone calls, someone robocalling the entire company until they found somebody who cared. It was the result of networking.
Be the Project Manager with Connections
Most of the buzz about networking revolves around one’s career. Is there a career opportunity you can learn about? Is there a business deal you can get in on, or maybe a partnership of ideas and capital? But networking can be just as critical in getting things done in the role you’ve already got, and especially so for project managers.
You know someone who always seems to have connections? The guy who always seems to know a guy? Well, be that guy.
The project manager is the nexus of information on a project. This doesn’t mean that a project manager should insist on being the sole conduit of information or demand to be involved in every conversation. It is simply that information about everything happening on a project gets to the PM, whether it’s for status, issue resolution, or discussions of change requests.
The power of the project manager is to leverage this for the good of the project. The project manager has a view of all the moving parts that not everyone has. An alert project manager, involved in the content of the project, can save time by seeing both issues and solutions early on.
But, while the project manager may have a high level of visibility to the project, they do not always have a high level of knowledge about the project’s components. This is where the networking comes in. As the PM, you don’t need to have the answers to every question: you just need to know where to look and who to ask.
Three Ways to Apply This Every Day
- Be the guy who knows a guy – Network within the organization. Make sure the right people know about your project and know that you’re the guy to call. Learn your way around and build relationships. When someone on your team needs help, don’t just leave them to figure it out on their own: work with them to find the resources or the answers they need.
- Be the guy who knows a guy, not the guy who knows it all – You don’t have to solve every problem or answer every question. You have a team of skilled people to do that, so let them do it. You don’t have to show off by answering every question or being in the middle of every issue. Get the right people involved, then let them go. If they need a nudge, be there to provide it, but otherwise, let them do their jobs.
- Sometimes you are the guy – Sometimes it can’t be helped: you really are the person who has the answer or has to do the work. Some things just can’t (or shouldn’t) be delegated. Recognize these things and get to work!
Internal networking is an underappreciated skill. I’ve never seen it mentioned in a performance feedback template. Nevertheless, it a secret skill you can build to help deliver success.
Authors Note: I keep using “guy” here because that’s the expression. But you can be the gal who knows a gal, too.